GRAND HAVEN, Mich. – The large cross on Dewey Hill that stood as a landmark since 1964, has turned into a controversial issue in Grand Haven for months now. Now another chapter in the legal battle over that cross, as a judge threw out a second lawsuit that argued taking the cross down was unconstitutional.
“My family put that cross on that hill, they were part of it,” said Jeff Grunow, a concerned resident.
Born and raised in Grand Haven, Grunow was three-years-old when his father helped the community install the cross on Dewey Hill.
“[My Mother] told me the story about all the guys from the VFW and everybody coming to our basement,” said Grunow.
Now he recalls his Mother Helen’s stories of the cross as a symbol of hope during the Vietnam War. After he laid his Mother to rest Wednesday, Grunow said she was the last person who knew the real story first-hand.
“She talked about all the guys coming in and making their little plans for the city, and that it had nothing to do with Christianity, had nothing to do with religion,” said Grunow. “It was about the War and all the soldiers that we lost, and giving the families hope; that’s all it was.”
Dewey Hill, the prominent sand dune owned by the city, will continue to stand bare, with no cross and no nativity scene, after Judge Jon Hulsing threw out a second lawsuit.
“It hurts for somebody to take that out of context like that and twist it and contort it, and turn it into a constitutional issue, it’s ridiculous,” said Grunow. “That cross is not any governmental agency endorsing any kind of religion over another.”
Grunow and six other citizens attempted to sue to the city, arguing the Grand Haven City Council’s vote to remove the cross in January violates the First Amendment. However, Judge Hulsing wrote in his decision in part:
“The question before the Court is whether it can order a municipality to display municipality-owned property in such a way as to form a religious symbol contrary to the wishes of that municipality’s governing body. The answer to that question is an unequivocal ‘No.’”
“We plan on appealing it,” said Grunow. “Helen Brinkman, the attorney, has told us we’re going to appeal it, she’s not done with this yet. Honestly I thought it was time to let it rest, but the more I think about it after my Mother’s funeral today, I’m even more on the target with it.”
Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis released this statement to FOX 17:
“The attorney assigned by our insurance company presented a compelling argument and Judge Hulsing has made his decision. Now we move forward with the business of the people, like street maintenance, law enforcement and utility operation as directed by our elected body."