First Amendment

The Satanic Temple Sues After a City Rejects Its Pentagram-Covered Veteran Monument

The group takes its First Amendment crusade to a public park in Minnesota.


The Satanic Temple is suing the city of Belle Plaine, Minnesota, because it won't let them erect a Satanic monument in a public park.

The story behind the case begins in 2016, when the Belle Plaine Veterans Club put up a steel monument called "Joe" in the Belle Plaine Veterans Memorial Park—a publicly owned space. The monument depicts a soldier kneeling before a Christian cross, and it was removed after a few months after critics accused the city of violating the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. (To refresh, that's the bit prohibiting the government from creating laws "respecting an establishment of religion.")

In February 2017, the city council voted to let private parties erect temporary displays in the memorial park. "Joe" received a permit to return. The Satanic Temple also applied for, and received, a permit for its own monument. This display was to consist of a black cube covered in pentagrams, with an upturned helmet at the top; a plaque would say, "In honor of Belle Plaine veterans who fought to defend the United States and its Constitution."

Though "Joe" returned to the park, the Satanic Temple never got an opportunity to erect its effort. That July, the city council unanimously passed a second resolution to rescind the first, explaining that "allowing privately-owned memorials of displays in [Belle Plaine Veterans Memorial Park] no longer meets the intent or purpose of the Park." The council also encouraged the voluntary removal of "Joe," to make the resolution easier to pass.

The Satanic Temple is now arguing that the government violated its right to free speech and discriminated against its "controversial but constitutionally protected religious viewpoints." Had the monument been erected, it would have been the first Satanic Temple display on public property.

This latest lawsuit joins the list of Satanic Temple First Amendment fights. The group made headlines last August after demanding that its statue of Baphomet—a demonic, goat-headed creature—be placed in the Arkansas State Capitol. The statue was unveiled after a Republican state lawmaker sponsored and quietly installed a Ten Commandments display.

Bonus video: A new documentary depicts devil worshippers as unlikely defenders of the First Amendment.