A few months ago, I posted about a giant hydraulic cross that goes up several times a year atop Dewey Hill in Grand Haven, Michigan:
You can read the history of that cross here but the question is whether this constitutes government promotion of religion.
In October, atheist activists Mitch Kahle and Holly Huber began challenging the Hydraulic Cross. With residents Brian and Kathy Plescher and attorneys from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, they requested that the Cross be used to promote their own views… including, for example, decorating it to celebrate LGBT pride, the winter solstice, reproductive rights, and atheism.
Hilarious. And a perfect response to anyone who claimed the Cross wasn’t really about promoting religion.
Last night, at a meeting of the Grand Haven City Council, the members voted 3-2 to turn that Hydraulic Cross into a permanent anchor and stop letting it get hijacked by various religious and non-religious groups looking to promote their agendas. Success!
According to the adopted resolution (pp. 81-82):
WHEREAS, the City has received requests to site additional structures on Dewey, or to substantially alter existing structures, which would require access for construction, erection, and repeatedly changing displays; and,
WHEREAS, the City legally cannot and should not selectively allow displays if that selection could even be perceived as based on the content of the displays;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
1. Commencing January 1, 2015, Dewey Hill shall no longer be available for any display except in accordance with this resolution.
2. The American Flag shall continue to be displayed on Dewey Hill.
3. The City Council may each year adopt resolutions permitting fireworks displays and other displays in conjunction with the annual Independence Day holiday and Coast Guard Festival. Before adopting any such resolution, the City Council shall review past celebrations and their impact on the dune, consider measures to be employed to minimize the effects on the dune during the proposed upcoming celebration, consider any special weather or other conditions that may affect the fragility of the dune, and consider other factors the City Council deems to be important for its annual review and consideration.
4. The feature pole currently located on Dewey Hill shall be configured solely as an anchor and, as so configured, may be used in conjunction with musical fountain programs or when requested in conjunction with other community activities. Anyone requesting use of the anchor display for purposes other than in conjunction with Independence Day celebration, the Coast Guard Festival, or a musical fountain program, shall pay a fee to the City that is determined to pay the cost to raise or lower the pole.
No more Cross. No more litigation. And all it seemed to take was the threat of atheists wanting the same sort of access to the hydraulics that Christians had received for years.
Is anyone surprised by that?
(Portions of this article were published earlier)