Belle Plaine, Minnesota is a town of just under 7,000 residents, yet this past year it found itself in the national spotlight due to a religious controversy that has become an all-too-common story.
This past summer, some of the town’s residents, with the city government’s permission, erected a memorial in a park dedicated to military veterans. The monument in question depicted a silhouetted soldier taking a knee before a grave marker that was in the shape of a cross. A non-religious resident of the town was apparently offended and complained to the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a radical atheist group.
After being threatened with legal action, the city removed the cross from the “offending” monument, leading to a nationwide outcry from Christians. In response, the city council created a “limited public forum” in the park to allow the cross to be restored, along with other potential monuments of a religious nature.
A short time after this, the atheistic Satanic Temple, based out of Massachusetts, announced that it would seek to place a satanic monument in the forum, alongside the kneeling soldier and cross. The announcement caused significant controversy and led to at least two large prayer rallies at the park. Facing mounting pressure, the city council decided to terminate the public forum and to allow neither the cross nor the satanic emblem to be present in the park.
While many of the town’s residents expressed relief that their little city wouldn’t have the dubious distinction of hosting the nation’s first public monument to Satan, it seemed evident that the militant atheists had won another round, forcing the removal of yet another Christian symbol from public view. Still, many were relieved that the controversy was ended. Or so they thought.
Now, at the beginning of November, the Satanic Temple has announced that it is seeking $35,000 in damages from the city of Belle Plaine over violation of its First Amendment rights and an alleged breach of contract.
Let’s be clear on what’s really going on here. The Satanic Temple and the Freedom From Religion Foundation don’t really care whether their godless monuments get put on display. Their real goal is to extirpate any public symbol of Christ. Like their dark master, they hate Our Lord and are hell-bent on removing all traces of him from society. In order to carry out this agenda, they will bully towns like Belle Plaine and make an example of them in order to send a warning to other communities that might likewise consider contradicting the growing state religion of atheism, even in the mildest of ways. The message these nihilists are sending is clear: Christ is not welcome in our society.
Our response needs to be equally clear. Too often we are willing to compromise with evil. We agree, time and again, to remove the cross, the emblem of Our Lord and King, in exchange for the absence of a monument honoring the father of lies. We hope that this will placate the enemies of Christ, but instead it only emboldens them, and this after first offending Him, our God.
It would be good for us to, when faced with these situations, to remember the following instance from the Gospel:
When Jesus was led before Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator knew that Our Lord was innocent, but he was afraid to release Him for fear of the mob. In his human wisdom, he tried to find a compromise. He had Christ scourged and then declared that he would release Him, but the mob insisted on the ultimate penalty of crucifixion, and Pilate relented. Ultimately, Pilate’s attempts at compromise caused Our Lord even more suffering than if he had simply delivered Him up for death at the first demand of the mob. Could it be that our current attempts at appeasement are likewise offending God and causing Him even more grief?
I think we ought to ask ourselves if concessions to the devil are really the best solution in our current situation. Would the apostles have compromised with pure evil? Would the early martyrs have done so? Of course they wouldn’t have. They all chose to die rather than offer incense—in some cases a single grain—to the comparatively benign gods of Rome.
It’s becoming ever more clear that we too will eventually need to put our foot down and truly stand up against the encroachments of the devil and his ilk. We will need to fight ferociously in the courts of law, and if necessary, to practice civil disobedience, regardless of the consequences. Would the apostles and martyrs have done anything less? Would Our Lord?
There can be no denying that we live in dark times, where the supreme evil is worshiped openly and with the blessing of the state. But it’s also true that out of such times arise the greatest saints, and it’s equally certain that God set us in the times and places He did in order for us to be those saints. With His grace, and with the weapons of prayer and penance, let’s rise to the occasion.