A Defend Veterans Park Facebook page was established recently to help rally support for the return of the cross to Veterans Park. Its supporters look forward to the day when the cross honoring Belle Plaine’s war dead will be legally reinstalled.
The following was posted on the group’s page following the council’s 3-2 vote last week to establish a limited public forum at the park, which will allow for the cross to be reinstalled:
The Grave marker of the Fallen Soldier will not be reattached until the city gets their new policy in place (which will happen at the next council meeting on Feb. 21st). BUT IT IS GOING BACK ON! Looking at the last weekend in February. We will post here as soon as we have a day and time so those that want to be there can! We thank you all for the overwhelming support! NOW LET’S SUPPORT OUR CITY!
At the top of the Defend Veterans Park Facebook page, it states: “A group of out-of-state atheists demanded a statue of a vet be removed from a city park. Our veterans defended us. Now we need to defend them.”
Although it was not the kneeling veteran or the rifle that the FFRF sought removal of (just the cross), Andy Parrish of the Defend Veterans Park Facebook page said “it’s open to interpretation.”
“Mine is if you remove a portion of it, then the entire monument is not there, and therefore, it is not displayed as intended.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which successfully sought the removal of the cross, issued a press release dated Feb. 7, the day after the Belle Plaine City Council’s vote to allow the eventual return of the cross through a limited public forum policy.
In summary, the press release states that “the Freedom From Religion Foundation is troubled about a Minnesota city backtracking on its removal of a cross from a public veterans park.”
“FFRF is very concerned by this turn of events. It finds the new policy to be subterfuge to keep the cross at a government veterans memorial. The purpose behind the newly proposed limited public forum is religiously motivated – to keep a Christian cross on government property – and thus calls into question the constitutionality of the policy.”
The press release also states that if the proposal goes forward, FFRF will also consider proposing a memorial of its own to atheists in foxholes. The full text of its proposed display in Belle Plaine would read: “In honor of atheists in foxholes and the countless freethinkers who have served this country with honor and distinction. With hope that in the future humankind may learn to avoid all war.”
Others May Want a Piece of Limited Public Forum Display Area
Belle Plaine City Administrator Mike Votca said that since Belle Plaine does not yet have a final policy in place, the city can have no official requests from organizations wanting to display a memorial at Veterans Park. But that won’t be the case if the council follows through with what it okayed last week.
“I have received a letter from the Vets Club stating that they want to erect a display. The FFRF indicated in their letter that they want to put up a display,” said Votcka this past Monday. “I also received a short message from someone stating that they were from a satanic temple. When I returned the call, no one answered and they have not called back. I also have an email message from a citizen asking to see the policy once it is approved, so that they might place a display.”
In the draft resolution written by Alliance Defending Freedom, which has agreed to represent Belle Plaine (without charge) should any legal action be taken against the city involving the return of the cross, it states that groups requesting memorials “must have at least 50 percent of its membership living in Belle Plaine.” The city’s resolution makes no mention of such a requirement.
Belle Plaine City Attorney Bob Vose said the deletion of removing the “50 percent Belle Plaine membership” requirement (and other changes) were made “to make the policy more defensible.”
The accompanying article (City Puts Finishing Touches on Veterans Park Display Resolution, Final Vote Next) lists more information about policy requirements.