Grand Haven, Michigan is a wonderful town right on Lake Michigan that seems to have a church/state problem on their hands. They’ve got a giant cross on a hydraulic lift in a public park overlooking the lake and Americans United for Separation of Church and State says they have to either take it down or make it an open forum.
A city raising a cross on Sundays for church services is an egregious constitutional violation, so AU asked the town to take the cross down. In response, city officials claimed that members of the public can use the hydraulic lift to display their own symbols and signs. The cross is turned into an anchor during a Coast Guard festival, for example.
Does the city mean it? We’re about to find out. AU just sent the city a request to use the hydraulic lift on behalf of its complainants, who want to attach their own messages and symbols to it during certain days:*Oct. 26: an LGBT and marriage equality display;
*Dec. 21: a display explaining that “the reason for the season” is the winter solstice;
*Jan. 25, 2015: a pro-choice/women’s rights display;
*March 22, 2015: a display commemorating the first anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Michigan; and
*April 5 and May 7, 2015: an atheist display.
McGinnis and Mayor Geri McCaleb initially told the Tribune that they had not yet seen the second request letter, but it should be interesting to see how this plays out. The newspaper described Grand Haven as a conservative Christian town, so it’s pretty unlikely that city officials are thrilled with AU’s proposal.
I’m working with a group of people right now to put up a humanist display next to a Christmas display at a public park in Muskegon, which is right next door to Grand Haven. But in Muskegon, the city is cooperating and is cool with the whole thing.