On top of Dewey Hill, in Grand Haven, Michigan, there’s a giant hydraulic cross that goes up several times a year:
The cross came into being in the early 1960s as a gift to the city (and it quickly became the centerpiece for a giant nativity scene). The city pays for the cross’ upkeep now by adding its maintenance costs to the contracts of any group that rents nearby Waterfront Stadium. (Edit: I should point out, in case it wasn’t clear, that the added costs are not explicitly labeled as going toward the cross.)
In other words, if you want to rent the public facility, you’re paying for the preservation of a Christian cross.
City officials maintain that it’s not just a Christian symbol. For example, during the annual Coast Guard Festival, they “dress up” the cross like an anchor.
That would be fine if it was an anchor year-round… but the costume is temporary.
Now, a group on Facebook is trying to have the cross removed because they say (correctly, I believe) that it “constitutes government-sponsored Christianity.”
Meanwhile, the Mayor is embarrassing herself in the media by showing off her ignorance of the Constitution:
“It does not cost the taxpayers of the city anything,” said [Grand Haven Mayor Geri McCaleb].
“Usually it is people from out of the community [who complain about the cross], and they are offended and so they bring it up,” she said. “We look at our policies and make sure that we are abiding by court decisions and that we are not being illegal in any way.”
The taxpayers aren’t directly paying for it, but anyone who wants access to the stadium, a city-owned facility, is. There’s really no difference in my mind. Even if the church paid all the maintenance costs, it’s still a promotion of Christianity by the city, no matter how they want to dress it up.
I attempted to contact the organizer(s) of the Facebook page yesterday to find out their motivation, whether or not they’re atheists, and whether they even live in the city… but I haven’t heard back yet. In any case, it’s hard to see how the cross is legal or what purpose it serves other than to provide eye candy for local Christians.
The common refrain from defenders will just be “It’s tradition! It’s always been there! WHY DO YOU HATE GOD?!” but those are irrelevant claims no matter what Internet commenters say.
Would city officials allow a hydraulic Star of David? How about a hydraulic statue of Baphomet? (I’m sure the Satanic Temple could crowdsource that…)
Of course they wouldn’t. And that’s why this cross needs to go, too. There hasn’t been an official legal challenge yet, but I suspect one’s not far away at all.