10/12/2013 2:15:00 PM CF Council debates Peace Pole in park
by Ken Haggerty
Rev. Barbara Martin, Pastor at First Congregational Church in Cannon Falls, addressed the city council on October 1 as a representative of the Community Churches Interaction Council (CCIC).
The CCIC is a multi-church group that worked together to replace the Peace Pole that had been in Minnieska Park but washed away in flooding last year.
The group was asking to put up a new pole, possibly on higher ground in Two Rivers Park. The pole says Peace in eight different languages.
Council member Bill Duncan said he was concerned about putting up religious or political things on city property, that separation of church and state was an important tenet in our country and that if the Council lets one group put up something, that it could snowball with other groups wanting to put up things.
Council member Merle Johnson, who had been in on discussions at a public works/parks committee discussion earlier in the day, said she didn't think the Peace Pole should be allowed in any of the city parks. She suggested it be rotated on CCIC church properties or private property purchased by the CCIC.
Martin said she was disappointed as she saw the message on the pole as not affiliated with any religious group whatsoever. "It's just a message of wishing for Peace." She said she sees the pole as a nod to our Veterans who fought for Peace, not something that would be in conflict with the Veterans Memorial being completed in Two Rivers Park downtown. "We just assumed since it had been up before that it would be no big issue."
Council member LeRoy McCusker said he would be concerned if it quoted a Psalm, or a Bible verse or the Ten commandments, but didn't look at this pole with "Peace" on it as religious. He said he would feel a little weird turning down the CCIC.
Council member Morris Mattson said he didn't see a problem with the pole. "When (Martin) was sitting back there with it, I didn't even know it was a religious thing."
Mayor Robby Robinson said he didn't think it was religious or political. "What's political about Peace? Nothing. This is America. That's what we want."
City administrator Aaron Reeves said the council can take on these requests on a case by case basis. "If the next one comes in and you don't feel comfortable with its message, you have the right to say no to it."
Martin was asked to check with the Veterans Memorial planning group and see if they have any objections to the pole being placed near their memorial and report back to Reeves or the Council.