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Why there's no longer a cross at this MN city's veterans' memorial

An out-of-state group put pressure on city leaders to get rid of the cross.

The soldier and rifle can stay. But the cross – that has to go.

That's the outcome in Belle Plaine, where local community leaders have been grappling with what to do about a statue at the local veterans' memorial, after an out-of-state group raised concerns.

You can see a photo of the silhouetted statue above. It's located at Veterans Memorial Park, which is owned by the city.

The statue was made by a local veteran, the Belle Plaine Vet's Club says, but "no longer has the same meaning due to some offended citizens."

What happened

The offended citizens are represented (unofficially) by the the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit based in Wisconsin that focuses on the separation of church and state.

The group lobs cases at communities around the country. Belle Plaine is just the most recent.

After being alerted to the cross on the veterans' memorial statue, the group started asking people to persuade the city council to get rid of it. The group argues that including a cross is "an endorsement of religion over nonreligion."

It also implies the government "cares only about the death of Christian soldiers," not the one-third of the population that is non-Christian or nonreligious, the group says. Though it adds it has no problem with veterans' memorials.

People came to the cross' defense.

A group calling itself Defend Veterans Park says the veterans "deserve better than to be pushed around by a few people who are offended by a soldier kneeling before a cross."

But it wasn't enough.

The cross has to go

The Belle Plaine Herald reports the city council had a closed meeting about it on Jan. 3. The recommendation from the city attorney that came out of it? Remove the Latin cross portion of the silhouette.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said it was notified Tuesday.

The local veterans group weighed in.

"We understand that this has upset many people and it upsets us too, but our hands are tied as the park is city owned and we need them to help us keep it preserved as sadly we do not have the funds or the resources to do it on our own," the Belle Plaine Vet's Group wrote.

One Burnsville company, seeing the disdain toward the decision from locals, has also offered to reproduce the statue for people who are interested in buying one.

More on the Freedom From Religion Foundation

The Freedom From Religion Foundation targeted Belle Plaine last year too – a longstanding nativity scene was taken off public land after action from the foundation.

It's the same group that went after Wadena for a nativity scene that had long been displayed at a local, government-run park.

And just scroll through their news releases. You'll see similar outcomes across the U.S.

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