In what would have been the first case of a Satanic church monument being installed on public grounds in the United States, one Minnesota town has abolished their “free speech zone” in a public park.
A green space named Veterans Memorial Park in Bell Plaine City, Minnesota was the stage for one of the more bizarre free speech fights in recent history, as the Church of Satan squared off against Christian activists in hopes of installing a pentagram-adorned monument in the public park. Originally, this particular section of the park was home to a monument depicting the silhouette of a solider kneeling at the cross-shaped gravestone of a fallen colleague. Eyeing the Christian symbolism, the Church of Satan threatened to sue the city unless they too were allowed to install a monument of their own: a jet black cube emblazoned with pentagrams and an upturned soldier’s helmet on top.
At first, Belle Plaine City capitulated, stating that this section of the park would be home to a new concept: A Free Speech “zone” aimed at allowing up to 10 monuments to be displayed simultaneously. Suddenly, as the Satanic monument came closer to being a reality, the city abruptly changed course, removing the Free Speech “zone” entirely, and with it will go the previously installed monument bearing the cross.
“’I don’t think there’s too many Satanists around here, but it’s free speech,’ City Council member Cary Coop told WCCO days before Saturday’s protest, adding to the station that he originally voted against having a free-speech zone and anticipated other groups would want spots in it.
“Coop also told the News that ‘I think people are really, really tired of it. It’s been non-stop controversy for a year now.’
“Belle Plaine resident Kyle Tietz told the station he’d prefer the city council stick with the free-speech zone.
“’They fought a battle, they made a decision. Stick with it,’ he told WCCO. ‘Let everybody put their own things up. Everybody has an opinion. That’s what makes this country great … This is the veterans park, isn’t it? That’s what they fought for.’”
While the Satanic monument’s backers were certainly utilizing shock value in order to teach their lesson, pragmatists such as Tietz have a point.
In the case of American freedom, the Church of Satan does legally have all of the same rights as any other denomination. The issue at the heart of Belle Plaine City’s conundrum, however, is tact, class, and common sense. It would have been much simpler for the city council to simply remove the “free speech zone” initially, claiming their right to maintain the park as their members see fit. Instead, opening this massive can of worms by invoking one of Americans’ most sacred rights has left the local government with more than a little egg on their face.