Magazine article Church & State

Flap over Michigan City Cross May Affect Local Council Elections

Magazine article Church & State

Flap over Michigan City Cross May Affect Local Council Elections

Article excerpt

A member of a Michigan city council who voted to stop displaying a large cross on publicly owned land in response to a complaint lodged by Americans United is now the target of a local recall effort.

Grand Haven City Councilman Bob Monteza finds himself under fire for his decision to vote in favor of ending the town's policy of sporadically displaying the cross, which was often attached to a hydraulic lift. The vote, which took place Jan. 5, was 3-2 in favor of not displaying the cross. Monteza and others said they didn't want to spend taxpayer money on a lawsuit.

The recall is spearheaded by Brandon Hall, a former member of the Grand Haven School Board who was removed from office after being found guilty of stealing money from a school fundraiser, according to the Grand Haven Tribune.

"I guess they're free to do what they please," Monetza said "I did what I thought was following my conscience and what was best for the city. If they feel differently, they have legal means to do whatever they please."

Representing local residents, led by Mitch Kahle and Holly Huber, Americans United last year sent a letter to officials in Grand Haven to protest the 48-foot tall, 24-foot wide cross that sits on Dewey Hill. The city, which has a population of about 11,000, had displayed the cross annually in conjunction with a religious festival and on other occasions. In December, the hill also played host to a large nativity scene.

The religious festival, "Worship on the Waterfront," is a summer event sponsored by the First Reformed Church. A group called the Worship on the Waterfront Committee pays rent to a local stadium to host the event. …

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