Belle Plaine Catholics lead resistance to Satanic Temple veterans monument

| June 14, 2017 | 36 Comments


Controversy around the monument “Joe” in Belle Plaine’s Veterans Memorial Park led the city to change the designation of some of the park’s public land, prompting the Satanic Temple to apply to erect a memorial nearby. Catholics are leading efforts opposing the proposed memorial. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

A black cube with Satanic symbols and an offering bowl has been proposed for Belle Plaine’s Veterans Memorial Park.

And Belle Plaine’s Catholics don’t want it there.

Father Brian Lynch, pastor of Our Lady of the Prairie, gathered for prayer in the park June 3 with more than 50 Catholics. Two days later, about 40 Catholics joined Father Lynch as he testified against the proposed monument before the Belle Plaine City Council. Meanwhile, more than 30 Catholics, including members of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Catholic Watchmen initiative, attended Mass and prayed in eucharistic adoration at the parish.

“Sometimes these things which are evil can really, maybe, wake some people up,” said Father Lynch, who has been pastor of Our Lady of the Prairie since 2015. “We really have to take our faith seriously and live it.”

A rendering of the proposed veterans memorial commissioned by the Satanic Temple for Belle Plaine’s Veterans Memorial Park. Courtesy the Satanic Temple

Commissioned by the Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple, the proposed monument consists of a 23-by-23-inch steel cube engraved with inverted pentagrams on each side. On top of the box sits an upside-down soldier’s helmet to both memorialize fallen soldiers and serves as an offering bowl.

The Satanic Temple describes the bowl as a place for visitors to leave cards or flowers, but also calls it a “Baphometic” bowl, relating it to an occult idol that has roots in medieval paganism.

“It feels like it’s being imposed on us from the outside,” Father Lynch told The Catholic Spirit.

Located 45 miles southwest of Minneapolis along Highway 169, Belle Plaine — population 6,400 — attracted the Satanic Temple’s interest after accommodating the placement of another monument that included a cross in a public park. Joseph Gregory, an 87-year-old Army veteran and Belle Plaine resident, made an iron silhouette of a soldier holding a gun and kneeling by a cross gravemarker that the Belle Plaine Veterans Club placed in the city’s Veterans Memorial Park last August. Gregory died in October.

A Freedom From Religion Foundation member in Belle Plaine considered the statue too religious for public land, so she reported the issue to police, according to Alpha News. The Freedom From Religion Foundation persuaded the Belle Plaine City Council to have the cross removed. The council addressed it with the Vets Club, and the cross was taken down Jan. 17.

Veterans and citizens crowded city hall for a Feb. 6 city council meeting to ask for the cross’ return. The council voted 3-2 to form a limited public forum area in the park, which allowed “Joe” to have the cross again. The designated space permits anyone of any religion to apply to place a memorial.

The Satanic Temple learned about the opportunity to place a monument in Belle Plaine through the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which also hopes to place a memorial in the park.

According to Freedom From Religion Foundation co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor, her organization’s memorial aims to honor “atheists in foxholes and other free-thinkers who have served their country with valor and distinction.” She said a quarter of the U.S. military is not religious, and the same percentage of the organization’s 29,000 members are veterans.

The Satanic Temple has similar aims. Its co-founder, Lucien Greaves, said that despite the name, his 5-year-old organization doesn’t believe in the supernatural, including Satan or God. Instead, it celebrates the “metaphorical construct” of Satan used, for example, in literature as “the ultimate rebel against tyranny,” not as a symbol of evil. Greaves said the Satanic Temple espouses an authentic “belief position” and not “some disingenuous ploy.”

“We really do embrace the opportunity to put up a memorial tribute to veterans in their honor,” Greaves said. The Belle Plaine monument would be its first veterans memorial.

With more than 10,000 members — including military veterans, Greaves said — worldwide, its chapters host lectures, weddings and funerals, and rituals surrounding events such as the spring equinox. The temple holds tenets such as autonomy of one’s body, compassion, justice and that “people are fallible.” It also supports abortion and same-sex marriage.

From its inception, the Satanic Temple has advocated for religious plurality “by asking for equal representation in public forums,” Greaves said. In 2015, it pushed for a Satanic statue at the Oklahoma State Capitol, but the statue was later erected on private property in Detroit, after Oklahoma City elected to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments instead. In 2014, a Satanic Temple member gave an invocation at a City Hall meeting in Greece, New York, that ended with “Hail, Satan.” Among the organization’s initiatives is “After School Satan,” what Greaves called an anti-bullying and anti-gang extracurricular program with no religious indoctrination. Its website states that the program aims to counter alleged “evangelism” of Christian-based after-school clubs.

The organization was also behind a “Black Mass” scheduled at Harvard University in 2014. A student group moved the event off campus after the Archdiocese of Boston condemned the event.

In his testimony before the city council, Father Lynch explained the distinction between the Satanic Temple and occult Satanism. He referred to the temple’s belief system as “atheistic Satanism” and the occult as “theistic Satanism.”

Theistic Satanists worship “the powerful and evil enemy of God called Satan in the Christian Bible,” he said. Meanwhile, atheistic Satanists “use Satan as a symbol of the rejection of moral authorities and the constraints on human behavior these authorities teach and support.”

However, Father Lynch said, atheistic Satanists use the “same inverted pentagrams as a symbol, a symbol that is almost exclusively associated with opposition to God and goodness.”

He argued that erecting a monument with Satanic symbols in the city would have a negative effect on the public — no matter the atheistic or theistic nature of the group that commissioned it — and that it violates multiple sections in a chapter of Belle Plaine’s city code. Father Lynch noted that the code states that “it shall be a petty misdemeanor for any person, in any parks or other public lands” to “commit any nuisance or any offense against decency or public morals.”

“The inverted pentagrams on the Satanic monument proposed by The Satanic Temple will prompt young people to consider Satanism for themselves and to reject the good moral behavior required for an ordered and peaceful society,” Father Lynch said.

Jason Adkins, Minnesota Catholic Conference executive director, said the question of the memorial’s placement is both a freedom of speech issue and a religious freedom one. He added that both have legitimate limits.

“With rights come responsibilities,” he said. “You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” if there isn’t one.

As for religious freedom, the government can have a “compelling” reason to set limits when a practice violates the common good, Adkins said, giving the example of the two Michigan doctors in court for performing female genital mutilation on two Minnesota Muslim girls for religious reasons.

Meanwhile, Adkins said it should shock people that there isn’t more push-back against the proposed memorial, with the exception of a priest and other Catholics.

“You’re invoking Satan,” he said. “We’ve come to a point in society, a post-Christian society, where someone could invoke the name of Satan and even put a monument in the town square — and we’re not talking Uptown, we’re talking Belle Plaine — and that basically there is no public outcry. Traditionally, Christians have understood that when you invoke demons, you’re cursing yourself and your community.”

Melissa Saxe, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Prairie, said the monument’s presence would dissuade her from taking her family to the park. Her seven children reguarly bike along its trail.

“Once you start allowing things like this, it’s a very slippery slope,” she said.

For Catholics, Satan isn’t simply a symbol of evil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Satan is a spiritual creature who was created as an angel, but who rejected God and “fell” from heaven (CCC 391).

Father Mark Dosh, a retired priest in St. Anthony who has studied exorcism through the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska, said the community has to respond to a Satanic memorial as they would any offensive material.

“It’s the way it has to be treated, because people give different interpretations of what the symbol means,” he said. “Just like a [offensive] billboard, where some people are saying that’s pornography and some people saying it isn’t. Usually a local community has to make or will make a decision as to what they think is offensive and bothersome.”

Satanic symbols such as the pentagram do pose a danger, he said, and the level of risk “depends on the person using them, and what they’re intending to do.”








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  • DrumminD21311

    If you’re so afraid the Satanic monument will summon supernatural forces from beneath the Earth to invisibly sow destruction and chaos in your community, there is a simple solution: remove the cross, as you did before.

    • bluMyst

      I don’t think there’s anything in the article about supernatural forces. As I understand it, Christians believe that all moral acts are inherently Christian. Or vice versa: That all Christian acts are inherently moral. Because of this, they look at anything anti-Christian as being inherently anti-moral.

      To them, this is like a memorial to neo-Nazi veterans, or something along those lines.

      • TamLin

        “‘You’re invoking Satan,’ he said. […] ‘Traditionally, Christians have understood that when you invoke
        demons, you’re cursing yourself and your community.'”

        Note also that the Satanic Temple is not anti-Christian.

    • Barbosa

      Typical. “We’d listen to you if you just shut up.”

      God is good, Satan is evil. That’s why that monument doesn’t belong there.

      By your implicit logic, you would support a swastika in the park, for all those Nazi supporters who died and ought to be honored.

      • Lucian Wargrider

        I don’t recall anything about that in the 1st amendment. If you can have a religious monument on public property, so can anyone else. By your implicit logic, only adherents of “good” religions can have their veterans status honored. Why do you get to decide what’s good?

  • Bolvon72

    As a veteran and a Satanist, I appreciate the fact that this is allowed to stand in honor of all veterans, but would still prefer that this and other religious monuments sit on private land, rather than public. It is nice to see that Belle Plaine understands that this is a pluralistic society and has made efforts to show that, regardless of the misunderstandings of a few of it’s citizens.

  • FrankiePepper

    Why are catholic trying to prevent Satanic veterans being remembered? I don’t remember the US military being only catholic…

    • Souris

      Christians despise the idea of other religions having the same constitutional rights and freedoms they do.

  • Freedom Fighter

    Finally! It looks like at least some of the religious are experiencing what we Atheists have had to deal with for so long. Someone elses nonsense. How do you like it CatLicks?

  • La Resistance (chaserblue)

    Honoring our fallen should not be decided by men with a vested interest in only their point of view being allowed.
    Deciding that only your grief and honor is valid should not be tolerated in this day and age. Christians may make up a good percentage of the U.S., that does not give them the right to invalidate other beliefs. If you can’t play nice and share, then get off the playing field. It does not belong to you.

  • Souris

    I know this will come as an ugly surprise to “The Catholic Spirit,” and most Christians, but you DO NOT have more rights and privileges under the U.S. Constitution than all other religions. Get over yourselves.

  • KingAdrock

    “but also calls it a “Baphometic” bowl, relating it to an occult idol that has roots in medieval paganism.”

    Well no… Baphomet was actually made up by the Roman Catholic Church itself, during their senseless persecutions of the Knights Templar. The Templar had basically become too rich and powerful for the church’s likings, and so they accused the Templar of worshipping a previously unheard of demonic deity named “Baphomet” (which sounds strangely similar to the french word for Muhammed, “Mahomet”; note this all took place during the crusades) and claimed they also committed all kinds of absurd blasphemies such as spitting and urinating on crosses. These charges were all completely false of course and were widely regarded as such even at the time; but that didn’t stop the church from arresting the Templars, torturing them into confession and happily seizing their sizable lands and assets.

    TL,DR: The Catholic Church itself created Baphomet. If Baphomet can be called a “pagan deity” then he’s a purely fictional one. *Nobody* actually worships Baphomet, including (or perhaps especially) Satanists.

  • TamLin

    Yes, government can restrict religious expression when that expression poses a danger to someone else’s rights. But a steel cube with stars on it doesn’t hurt anybody. If “But what about the demons?” is the church’s best legal argument against this then I welcome the court case and literally cannot wait to read the brief.

    I would add, aesthetically speaking, the Temple’s monument is clearly more pleasing than the original memorial, which looks a bit tacky by comparison. Although in defense of the person who designed it, it’s only fair to point out that he or she couldn’t possibly have anticipated this kind of scrutiny.

    • MarkSebree

      Actually, I think that the designer did anticipate this scrutiny given that this was designed in response to Belle Plaine’s decision to leave the cross/Christain memorial up and allow other religions to add their own memorial. That is probably why it is made of steel as well. Harder to move or damage.

      • TamLin

        You misunderstood me: I think that the Satanic Temple’s steel cube monument is quite beautiful and well designed. Whereas I find the existing Kneeling Soldier Silhouette marker on the space tacky and cheap looking. BUT, even as I say that, I acknowledge that whoever created it didn’t realize just how much national attention it would end up getting.

  • Scottie Warren

    A very well balanced article. If one is allowed all are.

  • cobalt100

    By my reckoning, if there were 50 Catholics in that park protesting, they have a valid deed of ownership of that park and no one else can install any other monument.

    • Becka Dean

      It’s public land for one, second, it’s a veterans memorial, why shouldn’t the religions of all veterans be represented. 1st Amendment anyone?

    • KingAdrock

      Well I’d say your reckoning is wrong. Very very wrong. Protesting in a public park does NOT magically make said park your property. Where could you possibly have gotten such an insane notion? Are you drunk?

      • cobalt100

        No, I’m not drunk, but I am sarcastically inebriated.

  • Becka Dean

    Don’t you just love equality ??? 1st Amendment , Bill of rights, religious freedom, seems they forgot that this is AMERICA and not CHRISTIANDOM.

  • Becka Dean

    As an ex Catholic/ born again Heathen, I am RELISHING the dismay. Love and light to my satanic friends??

  • Neil Taylor

    What exactly are Catholics resisting? Satanic temple has never proposed anything except in direct response to a government entity conspiring with churches to circumvent the establishment clause and provide illegal promotion of one religion over another. So what is there to protest that doesn’t also apply to the Christian monument not being protested?

  • ?

    Regardless the monument the dead cannot, walk, talk, or feel. Let your Higher Power Judge You. GOD or satan. I Don’t know of anyone that’s made a deal with The Devil and Won.

    • Lucian Wargrider

      Really. How many dead people have you talked to?

      • Lucian Wargrider

        Nevermind, you said they can’t talk or hear.

  • David Rice

    Why do some Christians object to a Satanic monument when they fought for decades to make it legal?

  • Nine Inch Nail

    What this always boils down to is they get to shove their religion down other’s throats in public but if you object or counter it’s “immoral” or ‘against the public good’. They’ll use religion to justify anything, including dragging people out of bed, holding mock trials, and burning them at the stake if you let them get away with it.

    Don’t give them an inch.

    • Nan

      Burning people at the stake is a protestant thing.

      • alonamaloh

        Not true. The inquisition was a Catholic institution, and they burned a lot of people at the stake.

  • singularity69

    Let’s not allow freedom of speech or religion in the 1st Amendment Park! Great idea, folks!

  • George T

    As stated many times before… keep the Christian iconography installed on government property and you’re forcing the local government to declare this space an *open forum*. The Satanic Temple then has every right to install a monument.

    So which is more important: using government property to display Christianity or keeping Satanic iconography from public view?

  • Me

    Uugh. What a load of crap. And people wonder why Xtianity is being abandoned in droves.

  • Edward Koestner

    There will be a rosary of reparation at Veteran’s Park at 12 noon on Saturday, July 15. That day is the same day that the Crusaders took the Holy City from the hands of the Islamic usurpers.

  • Jason King

    This monument is the same as a ten commandments monument.

  • Tylor2

    It would be a real shame if something happened to it.