Courtesy file photo/Brandon Davis
By Simon Brown
A Michigan city that decided to stop displaying a large cross on a publicly owned hill in response to a complaint by Americans United is now facing a lawsuit from some residents who want to put the cross back up.
Over the last three years, Americans United sent a series of letters to officials in Grand Haven on behalf of residents who objected to a 48-foot tall, 24-foot wide cross on Dewey Hill. The city, which has a population of about 11,000, had displayed the cross in conjunction with summer religious festivals, Easter and Christmas. In December, the hill also played host to a large nativity scene.
The summer festival, “Worship on the Waterfront,” is a ten-week event sponsored by the First Reformed Church. A group called the Worship on the Waterfront Committee pays rent to a local stadium to host the event. But despite that rental fee, there was still some cost to local taxpayers associated with city employees who raised and lowered the cross, which is attached to a hydraulic lift.
City officials considered allowing other groups to use the lift to display private messages but rejected that option after some residents, with Americans United’s assistance, expressed interest in erecting messages promoting atheism, LGBT rights and women’s rights. Instead, the city decided in January that the cross will be permanently converted into an anchor. The change, town officials said, will further cement the community’s historic ties to the Coast Guard. (Grand Haven, which is located on Lake Michigan, sponsors an annual Coast Guard Festival.)
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