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Community to hold meeting on calls to remove cross

LUDINGTON, Mich. (AP) — Officials in western Michigan will hold a meeting this month to get public feedback on calls for the removal of a large cross that’s stood along Lake Michigan for decades.

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation say the Father Marquette cross, which is maintained with public funding, is unconstitutional.

The Ludington Daily News reports the Pere Marquette Township Board will hold the special meeting Jan. 23 in Ludington.

The two groups say the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits Pere Marquette Township from displaying and maintaining such religious symbols. Others contend the legal issues aren’t that clear cut.

Marquette was among the first Europeans to explore the area in the 1600s. The cross was built in 1955 on the spot where he supposedly died.

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40 comments

    • トムソン ジョージ

      It would be a shame to impose a religious tax on citizens to repair iconography of a religion they might not practice. Using tax dollars to repair an obviously sectarian monument forces people to financially support that religion. James Madison opposed a religious tax like that in Virginia.

      Is there a reason why this has to be a cross? I’m sure a statue or plaque that wouldn’t violate The Establishment Clause could be purchased for the proposed $75,000.

      • Ramon

        why shouldn’t it be a cross?
        For those that don’t like it, get religion and a life. You people are the problem that we face today and my grandchildren will have to endure. Everything today offends someone, If I don’t like something I take myself away from it, if the shoe fits lace it up and wear it. This world is becoming a sad sad place. And while you are at it type in american english instead of that foreign BS.

        • Netizen_J

          So you wouldn’t care if your taxmoney was being used to promote Buddhism or Islam? You wouldn’t care if your kid’s public schoolteachers led your child in prayers to Ganesha every day? Is it the government’s place to promote reincarnation as the ‘officially correct’ necrodestination? Or do you think that it’s ok for government to promote YOUR religion as the ‘officially correct’ one, but not anyone ELSE’s religion?

          I think you would be HORRIBLY offended if your town decided to promote Hinduism rather than Christianity as the ‘officially correct’ religion. But I don’t think you’ve actually thought through just WHY the Founding Fathers intentionally and explicitly refused to include either the words ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ in the Constitution.

    • Netizen_J

      It’s not a matter of anyone being ‘hurt’. It’s a matter of the rule of law. Government is not allowed to promote religion. Period. Not your religion, not my religion, not anyone’s religion. We have a right to be free from government promotion of religion – that’s what the Establishment Clause is about. Government promotion of religion is an infringement of our right to religious liberty. Religious liberty necessarily includes the right to be free from Government Religion. The Founders left us with a godless Constitution on purpose. The right answer here is for the government to sell this tract of land to some religious group, and let them pay to maintain this religious display out of their own money, rather than taxpayer money. Easy peasy. That’s what’s going to happen to the Bayview Cross in Florida, and to the Bladensburg Cross in Maryland. Do you want your taxmoney going to maintain a statue of Buddha, Ganesha, or Baphomet? No? So do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Someone very famous once said something really close to that; sure would be nice if the people who claimed to follow Him would actually listen to Him…..

  • Roberta Aldrich

    We loved following father Marquette trails.. It’s historical. I fell onto it while on vacation with a friend. It’s like finding buried treasure. I enjoyed it so much. Why on earth would anyone want to take away local history that is truly Michigan. Our future children will find us crazy.

    • トムソン ジョージ

      Because it violates The Establishment Clause as is. For $75,000 I’m sure a nice statue, plaque, or religiously neutral monument could easily be installed instead. Using government authority to impose a religious tax on citizens is a violation of their religious rights. Would you be happy if you were forced, via taxes, to pay for a Satanic or Islamic monument?

    • Netizen_J

      The traitorous losers who attempted a rebellion in order to preserve their ‘right’ to own other human beings as chattel were ‘historical’ too. Does that mean that the government is obligated to preserve and maintain statues to ‘honor’ the likes of Nathan Forrest or Robert Lee? Of course not. Neither ‘traditional’ nor ‘historical’ holds any legal weight whatsoever in the face of the clear constitutional condemnation of ‘Government Religion’.

  • Clucko

    Whether it’s this case or any of the other totally BS lawsuits in the past that say the government is promoting any religion here’s an answer that I believe is worth a try. Have the entity that owns the property sell it, including the land it occupies, to a private group or individual with the stipulation that the property will be maintained. Since the property would be privately owned and not the government’s, the message delivered is not controlled by the government. In fact, if the property is removed, the rights free speech of the owner, the protection guaranteed by the First Amendment would be violated. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer for sure, but I think it’d worth a try.

    • トムソン ジョージ

      Be careful when selling land. Sweetheart land sales for religiously motivated purposes also violate The Establishment Clause.

      It would invalidate the budgeted usage of $75,000 for renovations, putting that burden on a private entity instead of forcing all citizens to fund a religion via taxes.

      • Clucko

        The state auctions off land all the time for various reasons. The intent of the buyer is of no consequence. Stop with the pseudo-legalize crap and use common sense.. It’s impressing no one.

          • Clucko

            That’s why I said the intent of the buyer is of no consequence, and that ultimate intent is known to the buyer, not the seller. By the way, where did the $75,000 figure come from?

          • トムソン ジョージ

            “By the way, where did the $75,000 figure come from?”

            Government funds earmarked for *renovating* the cross monument. The “maintained with government funds” mentioned in the article. That’s what brought this attention to the monument in the first place.

    • Netizen_J

      That would be great, other than the ‘stipulation that the property will be maintained’ part. The government has no legitimate interest in the continued existence of this or any other religious display. If the folks that want to maintain the cross don’t have the money to win the land-auction, that’s their problem, not the government’s. This is capitalism, isn’t it? Them what’s got the gold, make the rules. Ever thus.

    • Netizen_J

      There is no ‘war on religion’. There is a desire for the government to obey the rules. Government’s aren’t allowed to promote religion. Period. Not anyone’s religion. Not even the religion of ‘the majority’.

      As the Supreme Court put it: “The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever from they may adopt to teach or practice religion. ” (330 US 1)

      To those accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. That’s the sum total of the whinging and moaning going on here. No citizen has anything close to a ‘right’ to have government promote and endorse their religion as superior to all the others. Government is not allowed to act as if any religion is the ‘officially correct’ one.

      • Kevin Rahe

        Except you are completely wrong. This is not a religious display with the purpose of promoting a religion. It is a memorial on the grave of a historical figure important to the region. It is no different than a grave marker in any government-owned cemetery that includes religious symbols. Are you saying that all such markers are unconstitutional and should be removed?

        • トムソン ジョージ

          Kevin, this is a religious display and a memorial at the same time… but nobody knows where Marquette died or was buried, so it’s not a grave marker.

          The difference between this and a grave marker in Arlington National Cemetery is the representation of multiple religions on grave markers in that cemetery. Only displaying a symbol of one religion, that doesn’t even do a good job of identifying the person it’s meant to represent, violates The Establishment Clause as it’s an unnecessary entanglement of government and religion.

          A better solution would be a religiously neutral statue, monument, or informative marker that doesn’t invite legal action.

          • Kevin Rahe

            Actually, michigan.gov claims his remains are buried in St. Ignace. The two articles contain multiple facts that led me off track. One article merely says he died on the site in Ludington. This one says he was originally buried there but his remains were moved to St. Ignace. The fact that there are MULTIPLE religions represented on grave markers in Arlington is not what makes such displays Constitutional, though. If there were only a single grave there and it included a latin cross or a star of david, it still wouldn’t be unconstitutional.

            So this is neither a grave marker nor a mere sectarian display sponsored by the government, but rather a memorial to a particular individual. I’m not sure what you mean by “doesn’t even do a good job of identifying the person it’s meant to represent.” Do you mean that it’s a cross instead of a crucifix even though Fr. Marquette was Catholic? That is no issue – the Catholic church I attend has a cross – not a crucifix – on its steeple. So are you saying that there are limits to how a community can memorialize a historical figure who is important to them? (At least if they’re Christian. Unless you would impose similar restrictions on a memorial to someone who was an atheist?)

          • トムソン ジョージ

            Kevin, other articles and sources indicate that Marquette’s remains might’ve been taken or moved by other parties, like local Native Americans.

            “The fact that there are MULTIPLE religions represented on grave markers in Arlington is not what makes such displays Constitutional, though.”

            Incorrect. Giving equal treatment to multiple religions is not endorsing or establishing a religion. It is the reason that Arlington National Cemetery isn’t a constitutional violation.

            “If there were only a single grave there and it included a latin cross or a star of david, it still wouldn’t be unconstitutional.”

            Incorrect. That would be preferential treatment of one religion, which violates The Establishment Clause as it’s a way of establishing one religion as preferred by our government.

            “I’m not sure what you mean by “doesn’t even do a good job of identifying the person it’s meant to represent.””

            I mean that a person not familiar with Father Marquette wouldn’t look at the monument and draw a conclusion that it’s representing this explorer. They would see the internationally recognized symbol of a religion installed on government property, which is a violation of The Establishment Clause.

            “Unless you would impose similar restrictions on a memorial to someone who was an atheist?”

            If there were a memorial using only atheist iconography, I would object to that as well. Same for Islamic, Hindu, Satanic, Scientologist, Norse, or any other religion getting preferential treatment by our government. …especially when it results in a $75,000 tithe that citizens have no option for avoiding. That maligns the freedom of conscience that is the heart of our religious rights.

          • Kevin Rahe

            Essentially you’re saying that if the government sets aside a plot of land for the burial of an important person, that the memorial placed there couldn’t include the same religious symbols that it could if they were buried in a cemetery along with people of other faiths. I don’t think that the Constitution splits such hairs. If your sentiment reigns it might even call into question a municipal cemetery in a small community, where everyone buried there happens to be Christian, which probably do exist. Do you really think that going after such things is what the founders who signed off on the First Amendment intended?

            “a person not familiar with Father Marquette wouldn’t look at the monument and draw a conclusion that it’s representing this explorer”

            You could say the same about the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials on first glance. There are lots of monuments to individuals, groups of people and events that require closer inspection in order to understand their true meaning and/or who they are meant to honor.

            This display is unconstitutional only if you can say that its effect in promoting a religion outweighs its intended effect of honoring an individual. I think that once they understand the memorial’s purpose, no reasonable person would be concerned that it represents an endorsement of a particular religion or something negative about another.

          • Kevin Rahe

            If the same memorial were used to mark the place where someone who was only NOMINALLY Christian died, I think you would have a point. Or if the same memorial were erected in a place that had no particular attachment to Fr. Marquette, such as some small town in Michigan that he never visited, you might also have a point. But when a memorial to an important historical figure is put in a place significant to the person it honors, and accurately represents a key accomplishment or primary factor that motivated and guided their activities, whatever else someone might take it to mean – especially before they fully understand its purpose – is secondary at best.

          • トムソン ジョージ

            Kevin: “Essentially you’re saying that if the government sets aside a plot of land for the burial of an important person,”

            I’m saying that government burial sites that I’m aware of, and related court rulings, have addressed religious iconography in the way I’ve explained. If you know of important people buried on government land with religious iconography on their grave, I’d like to know so I could read more about the justification.

            “Do you really think that going after such things is what the founders who signed off on the First Amendment intended?”

            I think many of our founders opposed a government imposing on any citizens freedom of conscience regarding their religion. Forcing citizens to pay a religious tax was addressed by Madison, and Jefferson’s *Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom* which directly addressed citizens being forced by government power and authority to support, fund, or carry the burden of any religion. They separated from European nations that did impose with the goal of avoiding such mistakes.

            “You could say the same about the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials on first glance.”

            Neither memorial looks like an internationally recognized symbol of a religion at first glance. They also have statues of the people, which I’ve suggested multiple times as a replacement for this cross. There are several existing statues and pictures available as inspiration.

            “This display is unconstitutional only if you can say that its effect in promoting a religion outweighs its intended effect of honoring an individual.”

            It does, as it’s defining physical quality is an internationally recognized symbol of a religion. It is an unnecessary entanglement of religion with government and it advances a religion. That’s two of three prongs of The Lemon Test that it fails.

          • Kevin Rahe

            “government burial sites that I’m aware of, and related court rulings, have addressed religious iconography in the way I’ve explained”

            I cannot find a court ruling on a case similar to this one. Even the statement from the ACLU titled “Myths and Realities: Gravestones and Markers are Not In Danger,” contrasts gravestones containing religious symbols (which it defends as “entirely constitutional”) with cases where religious symbols were erected on public land without any stated purpose or where the group they were intended to honor may have included people who didn’t share the faith represented by the memorial (e.g. Buono v. Norton). I’ve read quite a bit about what the ACLU says about public displays that reflect religion but cannot find where it has ever addressed memorials on public land to individuals or even groups of people that ARE accurate with regard to the faith they possessed.

            “They also have statues of the people, which I’ve suggested multiple times as a replacement for this cross. There are several existing statues and pictures available as inspiration.”

            So while complaining about public funds being used for the memorial of a religious person you suggest that perhaps if even MORE money were spent (e.g. to construct a sculpture), the situation would be acceptable. (In fact, for all we know, the likely greater cost of such a memorial might be the reason it was constructed as it is in the first place.) But even if they did that, I question whether you would accept depicting Fr. Marquette accompanied by objects that reflect what drove him to do the things he is memorialized for, which may have even been part of his everyday appearance. Given the present attack, if I were part of the government body that has jurisdiction over this matter I would be concerned that any statue that makes him look more religious than Joseph Stalin might still not pass muster with the plaintiffs.

            “It is an unnecessary entanglement of religion with government and it advances a religion.”

            ALL memorials are unnecessary, so that is not a factor. The question is whether this memorial represents more of a government entanglement with religion than a headstone in Arlington cemetery does. I’m sure there are a range of opinions on that, but it’s certainly reasonable to find that it does not. If we cannot allow all memorials to depict with equal accuracy what was important about the person, group or event they are dedicated to, perhaps they should all be banned. (And the “Lemon Test” applies to statutes. This is not a statute.)

          • Kevin Rahe

            My reply needs attention by the powers that be. Here is the first part of it, which will hopefully go through without that service:

            “government burial sites that I’m aware of, and related court rulings, have addressed religious iconography in the way I’ve explained”

            I cannot find a court ruling on a case similar to this one. Even the statement from the ACLU titled “Myths and Realities: Gravestones and Markers are Not In Danger,” contrasts gravestones containing religious symbols (which it defends as “entirely constitutional”) with cases where religious symbols were erected on public land without any stated purpose or where the group they were intended to honor may have included people who didn’t share the faith represented by the memorial (e.g. Buono v. Norton). I’ve read quite a bit about what the ACLU says about public displays that reflect religion but cannot find where it has ever addressed memorials on public land to individuals or even groups of people that ARE accurate with regard to the faith they possessed.

          • トムソン ジョージ

            Kevin, try looking for American Humanist Association v. Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. It’s a case of a WW1 memorial shaped like a cross installed at a Prince George’s County intersection (government property). The court ruled that the cross violated The Lemon Test, from Lemon v Kurtzman. While you’re looking up the court case you should also read about The Lemon Test.

          • Kevin Rahe

            “They also have statues of the people, which I’ve suggested multiple times as a replacement for this cross. There are several existing statues and pictures available as inspiration.”

            So while complaining about public funds being used for the memorial of a religious person you suggest that perhaps if even MORE money were spent (e.g. to construct a sculpture), the situation would be acceptable? (In fact, for all we know, the likely greater cost of such a memorial might be the reason it was constructed as it is in the first place.) But even if they did that, I question whether you would accept depicting Fr. Marquette accompanied by objects that reflect what drove him to do the things he is memorialized for, which may have even been part of his everyday appearance. Given the present attack, if I were part of the government body that has jurisdiction over this matter I would be concerned that any statue that makes him look more religious than Joseph Stalin might still not pass muster with the plaintiffs.

          • トムソン ジョージ

            Kevin, there’s no issue with a memorial dedicated to a religious person or people. The issue is the impression of our government endorsing or advancing a religion in violation of The Establishment Clause. Spending $75,000 to renovate a big cross installed on government property gives such an impression. A statue without ostentatious religious iconography or an informative and religiously neutral marker would not be a constitutional issue.

            “ALL memorials are unnecessary, so that is not a factor. The question is whether this memorial represents more of a government entanglement with religion than a headstone in Arlington cemetery does.”

            It is a factor, given what I’ve already explained about Arlington National Cemetery and The Establishment Clause. If the issue is showing something important about the person, then his work as an explorer should be represented more that his specific religion. …unless you’re simply using this man as an excuse to install religious iconography on government property.

            “(And the “Lemon Test” applies to statutes. This is not a statute.)”

            The Lemon Test can be used in any case of potential government/religion situation.

            “So while complaining about public funds being used for the memorial of a religious person you suggest that perhaps if even MORE money were spent (e.g. to construct a sculpture), the situation would be acceptable?”

            Yes. The money wouldn’t be funding a preferential representation of a religion. What a silly question. I don’t think you’re a foolish person, so I’m left assuming that you’re intentionally obtuse or you’re so biased in your perspective that you truly don’t understand how this is favoring a religion using government resources.

            “Given the present attack, if I were part of the government body that has jurisdiction over this matter I would be concerned that any statue that makes him look more religious than Joseph Stalin might still not pass muster with the plaintiffs.”

            Then don’t include religious iconography. One of the existing statues depicts him in simple robes carrying an unadorned book. Another statue in a government maintained park has a proportionately sized cross hanging from his neck.

            “but if you pulled the soldiers represented by that WWI memorial aside and asked them what is the primary factor that binds them together and/or motivates their participation in the war,”

            Irrelevant given the result of religious iconography being installed on government land and maintained using government funds, giving the impression of favoritism in violation of The Establishment Clause.

            “But I think that ALL memorials would fail to pass the other “leg,” for none of them have a “legislative purpose.””

            The Lemon Test isn’t applicable if it’s not a government/religion issue, so the third prong isn’t applicable in your hypothetical.

          • Kevin Rahe

            I don’t think they would deny that their faith is important to them and even underpins their actions in most cases, but if you pulled the soldiers represented by that WWI memorial aside and asked them what is the primary factor that binds them together and/or motivates their participation in the war, without priming the conversation in any way, I think there’s a good chance many if not most of them would identify something other than their faith. So in that sense I think that situation is different than the one of Fr. Marquette’s memorial.

            As for the Lemon Test, you assert that the Fr. Marquette memorial would fail to pass 2 of the 3 “legs.” But I think that ALL memorials would fail to pass the other “leg,” for none of them have a “legislative purpose.” They are all merely sentimental – none of them are intended to prescribe or proscribe anything. That should be a clue to the resolution of these matters. If a non-religious memorial cannot compel acceptance of what IT represents (e.g. allegiance to one’s country), then how can a religious memorial do so, which is the basis of these complaints?

          • トムソン ジョージ

            “If a non-religious memorial cannot compel acceptance of what IT represents (e.g. allegiance to one’s country), then how can a religious memorial do so, which is the basis of these complaints?”

            Compelling acceptance or allegiance isn’t the issue. I’ve already explained the issue and you’ve just brought up a totally different and unstated cause that isn’t applicable. Why did you assume this other issue of compelling acceptance?

          • Kevin Rahe

            Why is whether the question concerns religion and government more important than whether it concerns actual legislation when it comes to the applicability of the Lemon Test? In fact, the way I read it, if the first question (whether it has a “legislative purpose”) cannot even be answered because it’s not a law that is being questioned, then I don’t see where the other questions apply, for they were formulated in the context of a different kind of issue.

            “If the issue is showing something important about the person, then his work as an explorer should be represented more that his specific religion”

            If his work as an explorer had more of an impact on people than his work as a priest, then I would agree with you. But if we have to be disingenuous just to be legal, I think that indicates a problem with the law (or at least the application of it).

            “The issue is the impression of our government endorsing or advancing a religion”
            “giving the impression of favoritism in violation of The Establishment Clause”

            I’ve read a fair amount about the situations that are used to justify the first part of the First Amendment, and none of them are anything so petty as a government body giving the mere IMPRESSION that it favors a particular religion. Instead, they were all rather concrete injustices, some blatantly written into the laws of some of the colonies. If the most egregious modern example of violating the First Amendment you can come up with is a small community giving the mere IMPRESSION that it favors a particular religion – where most reasonable people would likely interpret it as something else to boot – I don’t think you really have anything to complain about.

            “Why did you assume this other issue of compelling acceptance?”

            The law is meant to prevent (or at least discourage, since no law can absolutely prevent) actual harm to someone in the form of preventing them from exercising their rights. How can a religious display do that, except by coercing people to accept what it symbolizes? But if a religious display does that, then a non-religious display (e.g. that symbolizes allegiance to one’s country) also does that, and is therefore no more justifiable than a religious display.

          • Kevin Rahe

            As an addendum to my post that is still waiting for attention, I have the following question:
            If the cross were replaced with a statue or other monument that MINIMIZES Fr. Marquette’s religion, why wouldn’t that ALSO violate the Lemon Test, which says that a “statute” cannot “inhibit” religion, as well as that it cannot advance it?

          • トムソン ジョージ

            “Why is whether the question concerns religion and government more important than whether it concerns actual legislation when it comes to the applicability of the Lemon Test?”

            Because the test was specifically formulated for cases involving religion and government. Legislation can occur without religion being involved but this test exists for consideration of religion/government collusion.

            “But if we have to be disingenuous just to be legal, I think that indicates a problem with the law (or at least the application of it).”

            I value citizen religious rights over a monument. Our founders seemed to have the same mentality. If a monument must violate citizen rights to exist, then it’s not worth the trouble.

            “If the most egregious modern example of violating the First Amendment you can come up with is a small community giving the mere IMPRESSION that it favors a particular religion – where most reasonable people would likely interpret it as something else to boot – I don’t think you really have anything to complain about.”

            Your assertion is preloaded with the assumption that only unreasonable people would interpret this monument as inherently religious. You’ve technically recognized the religious nature of the monument so you’re addressing yourself as being unreasonable. I disagree, given the obvious religious nature of the display. It’s actually disingenuous to pretend that there isn’t an overt religious quality to this monument that violates The Establishment Clause.

            “How can a religious display do that, except by coercing people to accept what it symbolizes?”

            In this case citizen funds, that they have no choice but to pay, are being used for this religious promotion. Using the weight and authority of government to impose such a religious tithe is a violation of every citizens freedom of conscience. That government/religion dynamic is one of the reasons our forefathers came to this land and constructed the first secular nation in history. To keep government from imposing a religion on citizens. Our government isn’t a citizen, so it has no religious rights. Actions like this automatically impose upon the religious rights of citizens by the nature of government when married with religion.

            “As an addendum to my post that is still waiting for attention, I have the following question:
            If the cross were replaced with a statue or other monument that MINIMIZES Fr. Marquette’s religion, why wouldn’t that ALSO violate the Lemon Test, which says that a “statute” cannot “inhibit” religion, as well as that it cannot advance it?”

            Because removing or changing the monument wouldn’t impact your, or any citizens ability to practice a religion. Such a modification doesn’t inhibit anyone’s religious rights. The monument is an unjust privilege that abuses government resources and authority in opposition to citizen religious rights.

          • トムソン ジョージ

            I’m not confident that you’ve actually processed and understood what I’ve said, but I hope at some point in the future you develop a better understanding of our shared religious rights and how they stand in relation to our secular government.

            I won’t be able to attend this meeting. Hope that other Establishment Clause advocates will speak in my absence.