GRAND HAVEN, Mich. – A group called Citizens of Grand Haven filed a lawsuit against the city to restore the Christian cross on Dewey Hill. On Friday, a Judge Jon Hulsing heard the case in Ottawa County Circuit Court.
The group filed the lawsuit April 1, stating the removal of the Dewey Hill cross violates free speech and religious freedom as stated in the Michigan Constitution and the Michigan Civil Rights Act.
Judge Hulsing questioned whether the lawsuit could go further due to procedural issues of: whether or not the group Citizens of Grand Haven is a legal entity, and if the case should proceed anonymously.
Attorney Helen Brinkman said keeping the identify of her clients, Citizens of Grand Haven, anonymous is protection.
“Their identities really have nothing to do with the facts, the resolution, anything," said Brinkman. "Nothing is gained by putting their names out there other than Mr. Kahle taking the notes down and he has a new target.”
Mitch Kahle sat in court Friday; he threatened to sue the city to take the Dewey Hill cross down intitially. Kahle said he wants to ensure the cross and nativity scene are not reinstated. He also said he had no contact with the group.
“We would never threaten anybody: the statements of [Brinkman] were patently false and we are highly offended by them," said Kahle.
When Hulsing asked Brinkman if her clients were threatened with physical violence, she answered no, "but the threat of a lawsuit is a very real threat."
Hulsing ended the hearing and said the court will issue a written opinion on the case in the "very near future." Meanwhile, supporters of the cross said they are confident that even if this lawsuit does not go through, they will file another to get the cross restored.
“Whether it’s through this lawsuit or elections in November, the cross and nativity are coming back; it’s just a matter of how and when," said Brandon Hall, member of Save the Grand Haven Cross group.
This lawsuit is in retaliation to the Grand Haven City Council 3-2 vote in January to remove the cross, which stood for decades. The Jan. 5 vote changed the Dewey Hill display so that the feature pole would only display the anchor previously used.
The cross was raised on religious occasions, for example during the summer on Sundays for a weekly church concert.
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