MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A cross came down Tuesday from a Belle Plaine veterans memorial following the objections of a national watchdog group focused on the separation of church and state.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation said the cross, which was part of a display with a kneeling soldier, had been put up in the southern Minnesota city’s Veterans Memorial Park, just off Highway 169.
The group, which is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, said it raised objections in October with the city attorney, who told them the display was put up, without city approval, by the Belle Plaine Veterans Club.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-president of the watchdog group, said that having a cross on a public veterans memorial could give the impression that the city only cares about Christian soldiers.
“A quarter of veterans are nonreligious,” she said in a statement. “There are many, many ‘atheists in foxholes,’ and other non-Christian veterans who should not be excluded in any governmental memorial.”
On the Facebook page for the Belle Plaine Veterans Club, an image of the taken-down cross is displayed prominently. The group blames the display’s removal on the actions of “some offended citizens” and says it’ll proudly display the cross, which they say was designed by a local veteran, online.