Thursday, March 09, 2017 11:08 AM
Concerning Veteran’s VFW Monument:
My wife Lori and I were residents of the City of Belle Plaine for 17 years and we had the good fortune of making friends with many fine people in the community. The friendships are still in place; we are pleased to say.
One of our younger friends is Joanne Gill, who has been caught up, in a church-state issue that the entire City has been buzzing about. We have been friends with Ms. Gill for about 16 years and know to her to be married to a catholic man, has a teenage son, many Roman Catholic are part of her family, and has many friends who are Protestant and Catholic. Joanne Gill has never demonstrated hostility towards any religion in the long time we have known her. We were members of the small DFL party meetings led by Councilman Cary Coop. For many years, Ms. Gill contributed to that group who had positive concerns about the City of Belle Plaine. We found Ms. Gill to very intelligent, rational, calm and positive. Because she’s a working mother she cut back on her activities on behalf of the DFL and community.
I read in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper several articles about the VFW church and state conflict, so I called Ms. Gill requesting information about this matter. I also contacted a number of good friends in Belle Plaine who are knowledgeable about the events that take place in the City. I did not request permission from my friends to use their names in this letter, so I remain mute concerning their identity. I can assure the reader these friends all have high credibility in the community.
After speaking with many people along with Ms. Gill, how this conflict developed in Belle Plaine is as follows.
Ms. Gill called the Belle Plaine Police Department after biking past the Veteran’s Park and observing a monument with a cross present on the grounds. She phoned assistant chief Stier and asked if it was legal for a cross to be on public property. Officer Stier did not have an answer for Ms. Gill and referred her to City Hall. Ms. Gill next spoke with Dawn Meyer who could not provide an official answer and Meyer then contacted the Minnesota League City. The League wrongfully advised Ms. Meyer it was okay to leave the cross standing. This was very unfortunate because everyone seemed to forget the removal of the Christmas Nativity Scene in front of the Belle Plaine Police Department that was moved elsewhere because of the church-state issue. It was deemed a violation to have a religious symbol on public property.
The piece of property where the cross stood is City property. The VFW erected the cross with no permission from the City of Belle Plaine. The matter then escalated beyond the City to an outside group who injected themselves into this senseless donnybrook. Joanne Gill had simply made a phone call asking in a polite and reasonable manner; if it was legal to have a cross on publicly owned property. As a result of the civil inquiry, Ms. Gill was viscously attacked on Facebook. Some individuals were seeking her phone number and her property tax information was obtained by these people. For what purpose did these people want information about Joanne Gill? Joanne received messages stating “Why don’t you move?” and “Shame on you”.
I suggest, one and all, who became involved in this church-state issue, it is very Non-Christian behavior to attack Joanne Gill. We have a constitution and it may behoove everyone to familiarize themselves with this long-standing document. My observations reveal Joanne Gill has been intimidated, bullied, to the point where she became frightened. Shame on Ms. Gill’s un-Christianlike accusers. Ms. Gill is a civilized, gentle citizen now deserving of any apology from various directions.