What started as a debate about free speech versus the separation of church and state is ending with a satanic monument being erected at a Minnesota veterans park.
The Satanic Temple announced that the veterans monument it has planned for the Belle Plaine Veterans Memorial Park will be the first public satanic monument in the world.
The City of Belle Plaine cleared the path for the satanic group to display at the park following controversy earlier this year over a veterans monument that depicted Christian imagery.
A statue showing a soldier kneeling next to the Latin cross prompted a complaint from an offended citizen, which in turn brought Wisconsin-based nonprofit Freedom from Religion Foundation to the debate, pressuring the city to remove the statue as it was expressing preference of one religion above others as well as nonreligion.
To solve the problem, the city decided to section off a piece of land designed for free speech at the park where people can place temporary memorials that honor veterans.
This meant the soldier and cross statue could be moved there, and it'll now be sharing space with a monument depicting a satanic, black cube with inverted pentagrams, a soldier’s helmet and a plaque honoring veterans who died in battle.
"The Belle Plaine City Council was professional at all times," The Satanic Temple's spokesman Lucien Greaves (a pseudonym of Doug Mesner) said in a news release. "They adopted a clear set of guidelines which they adhered to. There was no push-back.
"Unlike some other localities where public office holders have wasted public funds in losing lawsuits, trying to gain unconstitutional exclusive privilege for their own preferred religious viewpoint. Belle Plaine recognized the legitimacy of our request and followed the law as it applies to public forums," he added.
The monument is expected to be installed on park grounds in the next couple of months, and while its installation is notable given it's at the behest of a satanist movement, the group said it doesn't want to overshadow that it's main purpose is honoring veterans.
Greaves told KARE 11 his group doesn't worship Satan, but rather is a non-theistic, religious group that venerates the narrative of "the ultimate rebel against tyranny, best embodied, by Satan."
But not everyone is happy – perhaps unsurprisingly – with Brett Holbrook, who runs the State Farm insurance business near the park, telling the TV station: "To me it feels more like they are just trying to poke the eye of the community, and they are doing it just because they can do it."