Grand Haven Gets Another Lawsuit Over Giant Cross

Grand Haven Gets Another Lawsuit Over Giant Cross June 25, 2015

The city of Grand Haven, Michigan, about 45 minutes from me, has had a second lawsuit filed demanding that they put back up a giant cross that they removed from the top of a sand dune on the Lake Michigan shore. The city removed it to avoid having to make the property a public forum and allow every other group access to it.

Local resident Brandon Hall filed the lawsuit Monday against the city.

“This Sunday, for the first time in over 50 years, the Dewey Hill cross will not be raised as a part of Worship on the Waterfront services,” Hall said. “This is unacceptable, and that’s why I am asking for emergency relief from the Circuit Court.”

A local church hosts worship services at Waterfront Stadium on Sunday evenings, which has included the raising of a cross across the river at Dewey Hill. This summer’s Worship on the Waterfront series begins June 28.

Hall’s lawsuit joins one filed last week by attorney Helen Brinkman on behalf of a group of current residents and one former Grand Haven resident.

Both lawsuits claim a resolution approved by City Council on Jan. 5 violates religious freedom protections. The resolution was a response to a threat of a lawsuit by a group called “Remove the Grand Haven Cross” through the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The group wanted to erect displays of its own choosing on Dewey Hill…

Hall asks that a temporary restraining order be placed to keep the city from enforcing its Jan. 5 resolution, aimed at allowing the Dewey Hill cross to be displayed during Worship on the Waterfront services until a hearing on his request for a preliminary injunction. He requests a show-cause hearing as to why a preliminary injunction should not be granted, and to have that hearing within 14 days, or by June 26 if a temporary restraining order is not granted.

The preliminary injunction, if granted, would force the city not to implement the resolution while the case is being litigated.

Hall’s final request is that the court enter judgment stating that the resolution is illegal and in violation of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act; and unconstitutional, in violation of the Michigan and U.S. constitutions.

These arguments are absurd, as is the lawsuit, which is not surprising since Hall is representing himself pro se. The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act is Michigan’s anti-discrimination law. His argument is that by taking down the cross, the city is discriminating against Christians, which is nonsense. In fact, it is because of such laws and the judicial precedents around them, that the city did the right thing. If it had left the cross up but allowed no other groups to put up their own displays, that would have been discrimination on the basis of religion (and a violation of the Establishment Clause, of course). They had a choice — take it down or let them all go up. They chose the first option. That does not violate the rights of Christians because they never had a right to access that property for their displays in the first place.

The complaint reads like it was written by Larry Klayman, full of political boilerplate language rather than legal arguments. He refers to a “systematic campaign of Anti-Christian hate by Mitch Kahle” (the guy who got the city to take it down) and says that the city “aided and abetted Kahle’s legalistic terror.” Want to get on the bad side of a judge? Use inflammatory language like that rather than legal arguments. Kahle’s alleged motivations have nothing at all to do with whether the city violated the law by taking down the cross.

He quotes precedents like Mergens and Lamb’s Chapel that actually argue against his position (equal access to public property). He even cites Schempp and Engel, cases that removed Bible reading and Christian prayer from schools, as supporting his position. That’s going to get a good laugh from the judge. This is funny stuff. You can read the complaint here.

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