The residents of Long Prairie Minnesota have donated a city-owned Veterans Memorial Park to the American Legion and VFW to protect a beloved cross memorial from a special interest group.
The people of Long Prairie like to believe that they’re one of the most patriotic towns in the United States. A statue of the original flag raising on Iwo Jima decorates the highest peak in downtown Long Prairie, their mayor is 75-year-old Navy veteran, and in 2002 they erected a monument featuring a “Huey” Helicopter and a Vietnam wall in their Veterans Memorial Park.
The park also features several other smaller monuments, including a cross that pays tribute to the Unknown Soldier. When Mayor Don Rasmussen received a letter from a DC group called “Americans United for Separation of Church and State” asking them to remove the cross which they labeled “a religious display in Veterans Memorial Park.” Rasmussen knew it was a problem that needed to be nipped in the bud and was blunt with reporters. He stated:
“There are a lot of veterans that are really ticked off.”
The group claims that a resident of the town made a complaint and asked the group to have the cross removed. They said it was due to the religious symbol being a violation of the separation of church and state with the park being city-owned property. Removing the tribute was not an option for the patriotic residents of this town and they weren’t interested in a long drawn out legal battle with the DC group.
Rasmussen and other residents devised an ingenious yet simple plan. They are donating the land to the American Legion and VFW so that the land is privately owned. The land transfer is expected to take place by the end of this week. Once complete, the cross will be standing on private land, not public land, and will no longer be a violation of the separation of church and state.
Vonnie Heckt, Long Prairie’s American Legion Commander, is one of many people that are elated by the decision. She told reporters:
“Tears of joy. We were just glad it was ours, it could stay. We could do what we wanted with it. It means everything to us.”
No residents of the town have come forward to take responsibility for the complaint. Rasmussen hopes that whoever made the complaint will come forward and discuss why they were offended by the monument and discuss how they can make the park more welcoming for all guests without removing any of the beloved monuments.