A Minnesota town has removed a religious veterans' war memorial after the Freedom From Religion Foundation protested.
In Veterans Memorial Park in the city of Belle Plaine, there was a display of a soldier kneeling before a Latin cross next to the Veterans Memorial Stone. This display was reportedly added to the park very recently.
FFRF raised concerns due to a number of reasons.
"FFRF has no objection to veterans' memorials," FFRF Managing Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote to the city attorney in early October. "Our objection is to the message of endorsement of religion over nonreligion. Numerous memorials featuring religious emblems have been held to violate the Establishment Clause."
Additionally, FFRF asserted, the memorial sent a message that the government cares only about the death of Christian soldiers and was disdainful of the sacrifices made by non-Christian and nonreligious soldiers, since it excluded the one-third of the population that identifies as such.
In its reply a few weeks later, the city attorney essentially admitted that the Belle Plaine Veterans Club put up the memorial without city approval. The response said that the Belle Plaine City Council would consider at its next meeting how to deal with the matter.
FFRF has received word that the memorial statue was taken down Tuesday, Jan. 17. This follows on the heels of the removal of a 14-foot cross in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 13., that FFRF litigated over.
"A quarter of veterans are nonreligious," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "There are many, many 'atheists in foxholes,' and other non-Christian veterans who should not be excluded in any governmental memorial."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization that works to protect the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. It represents more than 26,000 nonreligious members across the country, including almost 600 in Minnesota.