A proposed Satanic monument in a city-run veterans’ park has drawn strong opposition from Catholics in Minnesota, who have led prayer rallies and spoken before the Belle Plaine City Council.
Susie Collins was among the attendees of a rosary rally in Belle Plaine’s Veterans Memorial Park to oppose the monument. She told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the monument “is not the message of life and love, it is the message of death and decay.”
Other critics of the monument waved signs urging passersby to reject Satan. Several dozen people attended the rally, in a city with a population of about 7,000.
The Satanic Temple, based in Salem, Mass., had proposed to place its own monument in the city park. The monument, a black cube inscribed with pentagrams with an upside-down soldier’s helmet on top, was approved by the city.
In May city officials said that the application for the monument met the criteria of city policy. It has not yet been installed.
Lucien Greaves, a co-founder the five-year-old Satanic Temple, said his organization does not believe in the supernatural but sees Satan as a “metaphorical construct” of “the ultimate rebel against tyranny.” It claims 10,000 members worldwide, the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis’ newspaper The Catholic Spirit reports.
The group tried to organize a “Black Mass” at Harvard University in 2014 before a student group moved the event off-campus. It has created an after-school program based around its beliefs and worked to install a Satanic statue at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
A smaller group of supporters of the monument, from Minnesota’s Left Hand Path group, also demonstrated on Saturday. The group includes Satanists.
Koren Walsh, a member of the group, said the presence of the monument would show “all faiths have a voice in the city of Belle Plaine and the state of Minnesota,” the Minnesota CBS affiliate WCCO reports.
The protest of the monument was organized by the Pennsylvania-based group America Needs Fatima, a lay-run non-profit that says it promotes the message of Our Lady of Fatima.
The proposed Satanic monument adds to a previous controversy at the park concerning a two-foot-tall statue of a soldier praying over a grave marked with a cross. The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation had objected to the statue, which was initially put up without city approval by the Belle Plaine Veterans Club. The foundation objected that the cross on a public veterans’ memorial could create the impression that the city only cares about Christian soldiers.
According to the foundation, it aims to place its own memorial to honor non-religious service members, including “atheists in foxholes and other free-thinkers who have served their country with valor and distinction.”
The city council initially sought to remove only the cross, then removed the statue entirely in January. In April, its location in the park was then designated a free speech zone by the city council, allowing the statue to return. The city council voted to allow private organizations to place memorials featuring religious symbols in the designated area as long as they met certain requirements related to material and size.
On Monday the city council was set to debate a resolution to remove the free speech zone, and thus preventing either the praying soldier or the Satanic monument from being placed in the park.
Local Catholics had spoken out against the Satanic monument.
Father Brian Lynch, pastor of Our Lady of the Prairie Church, was joined in prayer at the park by more than 50 Catholics at the park June 3.
“Sometimes these things which are evil can really, maybe, wake some people up,” Fr. Lynch said, according to The Catholic Spirit. “We really have to take our faith seriously and live it.”
He testified against the proposed monument before the city council in early June. He cited atheistic Satanists’ use of Satan “as a symbol of the rejection of moral authorities and the constraints on human behavior these authorities teach and support.” He said they also use inverted pentagrams as a symbol “almost exclusively associated with opposition to God and goodness.”
According to Fr. Lynch, the presence of Satanic symbols would have a negative effect on the public and violate several sections of the city code, including laws against committing offenses against decency or public morals in parks or public lands.
Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, said both freedom of speech and religious freedom have legitimate limits.
“With rights come responsibilities,” he said, adding that more people should be shocked by the Satanist advocacy.
“You’re invoking Satan,” he said. “Traditionally, Christians have understood that when you invoke demons, you’re cursing yourself and your community.”