Battle Continues for Belle Plaine Vets’ Memorial

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Members of Defend Veterans Park resume their vigil at Belle Plaine Veterans' Memorial Park. (Photo Defend Veterans Park)

BELLE PLAINE, MINN –  Defenders of the Belle Plaine Veterans Park cross memorial have resumed their stand at the park this week after the city council made alterations to the Proposed Limited Public Forum passed on Feb. 6.

As Alpha News reported, the group, Defend Veterans Park, saw a victory on Feb. 6 when the city council voted 3-2 to create a Limited Public Forum at the park site. The public forum would allow for individuals to erect memorials honoring veterans at the park.  However, the city council recently made amendments to the proposal, significantly altering the language and changing the requirements for the memorials.  The new language includes an increase in the number of allowed memorials, limits the time the memorials can remain in place and requires a $1,000,000 insurance policy for the memorials.

Defend Veterans Park alerted the community to the proposed amendments in a Facebook post, stating: “Their Policy allows 18 monuments rather than the 5 we proposed, they are approved on a first come first serve basis with ZERO preference given to YOU the residents of Belle Plaine. Finally, the display must have liability coverage of $1,000,000 which coverage must list the City as an additional insured. $1,000,000 is more insurance than your average house has, more than your average life insurance policy, and an amount the Vets Club and your average individual resident can’t sustain. ….Very disappointing, but we are not giving up. If passed as written Joe’s memorial won’t go back up.”

Now, according to Defend Veterans Park member Katie Novotny, the group feels blindsided. Novotny told Alpha News in an interview, “We’re disappointed in the changes the city has made, and we don’t think the city council has the community’s best interest at heart.”  She went on to say, “This is our Veterans Park. We need to honor our vets.  If there are atheist vets they will be honored as well.”  

The Belle Plaine City Council meets on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.  Defend Veterans Park will have a rally at 5:30pm at the Belle Plaine Vets’ Club.  The group then plans to attend the city council meeting at 6:30.  The organization packed the council chambers with a standing room only crowd on Feb. 6 and hope to do it again.

The Belle Plaine Herald reported the group, Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), who made the original complaint about the cross, sent a letter to Belle Plaine City Attorney Bob Vose dated Feb. 16, 2017.  FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert states in the letter:

“In light of the city of Belle Plaine’s decision to open a “limited public forum” in its Veterans Park, our national organization, which works to protect the constitutional principle of separation from state and church, is considering its legal options including litigation in this matter.”  

The Defend Veterans Park is also organizing a fundraising effort for four additional monuments in the park.  The monuments will honor the four branches of the United States military.  They plan to include a plaque with the monuments stating, “Dedicated to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines—religious, agnostic, and atheist—who served our Nation as one and as brothers. Presented by (Name).”  A GoFundMe page has been set up for people who wish to donate to the effort.

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