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 we heard, the Cross was going to be turned into a permanent anchor, a perfect way to make sure no group could use it to advance a personal agenda.
But this week, appropriately on April Fools Day, a lawsuit was filed to prevent the city from taking down the cross. In other words, keeping the government neutral somehow constituted discrimination against Christians.
The suit was filed by a group of anonymous citizens calling themselves “Citizens of Grand Haven”:
The plaintiffs claim there’s a “necessity for immediate action.”
“The urgency is the peak time for the waterfront and Dewey Hill is fast approaching,” the complaint asserts. “The necessity is to avoid the continued appearance, already publicized, that the community of Grand Haven is hostile to the Cross as religious speech.”
The complaint argues that the city council’s decision “singling out” the cross and keeping the non-religious anchor was “viewpoint discrimination” and violated the equal protection and free speech clauses of the state constitution.
“The resolution endorses a hostility toward religious speech” and is not “viewpoint neutral,” the lawsuit asserts.
Let me reiterate just how stupid this lawsuit is. It suggests that a government-owned symbol is hostile toward religion because it’s not advancing Christianity. By that logic, I guess every government building that doesn’t have a cross on top of it is anti-Christian, too.
I asked Mitch Kahle what he thought of the lawsuit and even he seemed surprised by how ridiculous this all was:
The attorney, Helen Brinkman, is a former prosecutor and criminal lawyer with no experience in constitutional cases.
We think Brinkman has clearly gone out on a limb and the case should be dismissed on the first motion.
No resident of Grand Haven will have standing to bring such a case, since Dewey Hill was never used for anything except government speech.
Let’s hope he’s right.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)