Showing our age (yet again), we invoke our older readers’ memories of comedian Flip Wilson who had a successful record album, “The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress,” in the 1970’s, which, in turn, spawned the 1970’s meme, “The Devil made me do it.”
At issue in a newly filed case in the U.S. District Court (D. Minn.) is whether the Minnesota town of Belle Plaine stopped allowing private citizens to erect their own veterans’ memorials in a public park in response to The Satanic Temple’s application for a permit to erect such a display (and, if so, whether that violates the U.S. Constitution).
It seems the town was okay with the Belle Plaine Veteran’s Club’s display, known as “Joe,” depicting a soldier kneeling before a Christian cross. (See here, at Para. 27) (that is, until Belle Plaine was threatened with litigation over the religious nature of the display on public land after which the display was taken down). But when the Satanic Temple applied for a permit, the town decided it had had enough of this “limited public forum in Veterans Memorial Park.” (See here, the towns decision that private displays “no longer meets the intent or purpose of the park” (at p. 9 of 11)).
It seems a bit odd to us if a town, realizing that a particular public forum has become controversial and politicized, could not decide to abolish the forum for all, but we are not First Amendment specialists. Who knows? For what it’s worth, the Satanic Temple’s proposed monument included the pentagram, a religious symbol of that faith, we believe. It seems odd to us that a display with a cross might run afoul of the Establishment Clause but not so much for a symbol of the Satanists’ faith?