by Dan Ruud
Belle Plaine Herald
Belle Plaine City Administrator Michael Votka said the city recently received an application from a Massachusetts-based organization called Reason Alliance, Ltd. to place a monument at Veterans Park in Belle Plaine.
Reason Alliance, Ltd. was formed in 2014 by directors Malcolm Jarry and Douglas Mesner, founders of The Satanic Temple (TST). The nonprofit “was set up to encourage reason and empathy, reject tyrannical authority, promote justice and advocate pragmatic commonsense. We support activities that promote these core values.”
According to Wikipedia, “the Satanic Temple does not believe in a supernatural Satan, as they believe that this encourages superstition that will keep them from being malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world. The Temple uses the literary Satan as a metaphor to construct a cultural narrative that promotes pragmatic skepticism, rational reciprocity, personal autonomy and curiosity. Satan is thus used as a symbol representing ‘the eternal rebel’ against arbitrary authority and social norms.”
Mesner, who completed the application to the city of Belle Plaine, confirmed last week by telephone that his organization is “not a group of devil worshipers,” but rather “a national organization of tens of thousands of people seeking equality for all religious or nonreligious beliefs.”
“We have a lot of veterans within our ranks,” Mesner added.
In February, the Belle Plaine Veterans Club submitted the first application to place a monument in the limited public forum area of the park. That monument will include the return of the cross that was removed from the kneeling soldier with rifle display in January following complaints by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the city was failing to comply with separation of church and state laws. The Veterans Club, with many vocal supporters in tow, sought and eventually received the city council’s approval to return the cross once the limited public forum is in place.
Votka said both the Belle Plaine Veterans Club and Reason Alliance, Ltd. have paid the $100 application fee and provided the necessary liability insurance coverage for their monuments.
Votka added that workers from the public works department should have the limited public forum area at the park properly prepared for the installation of monuments by the end of this week. The work includes installing signage and placing brick borders around the perimeter of the limited public forum area.
According to its application, the monument that Reason Alliance, Ltd. plans to install in the park is a black steel cube with embossed inverted pentagrams with inlaid gold on four sides. An inverted soldier’s helmet rests on the top of the cube (see accompanying drawing). A plaque on the side of the cube will read:
In honor of Belle Plaine veterans who fought to defend the United States and its Constitution.
The monument will be approximately 36 inches high, 23 inches wide and 23 inches long. The city council has given Votka the authority to approve or disapprove monument applications, and Votka and Mayor Chris Meyer said the Reason Alliance, Ltd application meets the criteria for approval with its honoring of Belle Plaine veterans.
Mesner said that when he receives confirmation from Belle Plaine that his application has been approved, he will make arrangements to have the memorial brought to Belle Plaine and installed in Veterans Park.
Votka said the city has not yet received an application from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which earlier this year indicated it would do so if the city followed through with the limited public forum policy.