Friday, April 03, 2015

Citizens Suit Challenges City's Removal of Cross From Dunes Area

A group of Grand Haven, Michigan residents filed suit on Wednesday in state court seeking to force the city to rescind a resolution it adopted in January to remove a 48-foot tall cross from Dewey Hill-- a critical dune. The complaint (full text) in Citizens of Grand Haven v. City of Grand Haven, (MI Cir. Ct., filed 4/1/2015), contends that the city's action violates the free speech and equal protection clauses of the Michigan Constitution.

According to a Nov. 2014 MLive article:
The cross first was erected on Dewey Hill in December 1964 and now only is raised 10 times a year with sponsorship from Grand Haven's First Reformed Church for Worship on the Waterfront. 
During the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, the cross is converted to an anchor.
The most recent series of events was triggered by a letter from Americans United which, under the public forum status of Dewey Hill, asked to put up a series of displays marking Festivus, promoting LBGT pride and marriage equality, promoting atheist rights, and promoting reproductive choice.

This led city council in January to pass a resolution to limit access to Dewey Hill and convert the cross into an anchor. (Jan. 6, 2015 MLive article).

The lawsuit filed this week contends:
Defendant's actions in singling out the Dewey Hill Cross, the target of the anti-religious group, and keeping the Coast Guard Anchor, the non-religious part of the monument, constitutes an action regulating speech in a traditional public free speech forum and discrimination on the sole basis of religion, in violation of the Michigan Constitution and Civil Rights Act.
The Grand Haven Tribune has more on the lawsuit.