Grand Haven cross permanently becomes anchor

Posted at 9:49 PM, Jan 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-06 22:54:23-05

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — A long debate over the past few months that had tensions rising has come to a head in Grand Haven.

“Rather than things accelerating and getting much worse I think the thought was let’s put a stake in the sand, and no more stuff on Dewey Hill,” said Pat McGinnis, city manager of Grand Haven.

The city council decided Monday night in a 3-2 vote that they would no longer raise the cross. Instead, it will be made into an anchor to be shown during the Coast Guard Festival.

The 48-foot-tall cross has been at the top of Dewey Hill for decades, but recently a group, commonly known as, Remove the Grand Haven Cross on Facebook, says the city was being unconstitutional by having religious symbols on city owned property. The result of this long debate was putting an end to a 50 year tradition. Even though a decision has been made, people still have a lot to say and debates are beginning on the Facebook pages, Remove the Grand Haven Cross, and Keep the Grand Haven Cross.

“We think that the city has come to their senses and made a choice that's best for the city of Grand Haven,” said Brian Plescher, who was on the original individuals involved in bringing up that the cross was unconstitutional to the city.

Others who have grown up with the cross are disappointed.

“That’s crazy silly. It’s basic philosophical argument that if you don’t believe in God then why do you even care about the symbols,” said long-time resident Joseph Masvero.

It’s the end of the road for the Grand Haven symbol atop Dewey Hill that’s made headlines for the past few months, and whether you agree with it or not, you knew it existed.

“I think it's probably safe to say it's an emotional issue. People are very attached to tradition,” said McGinnis.

The cross was raised on religious occasions, like in the summer on Sundays when a church did a weekly concert called Worship on the Waterfront, but the cross being raised will now just be a memory.

“Antagonists that wanted to remove the cross from the hill were using an approach where they were demanding a great variety of items and displays on the hill,” said McGinnis.

Plescher and a group of individuals proposed banners promoting the LGBT community, pro-choice beliefs, and atheism.

The city says putting a bunch of symbols on top of Dewey Hill is not in the best interest of the environmental health of the sand dune.

“The council thought it's better to have nothing up there than everything,” said McGinnis.

Brian Plescher and a group of individuals in association with the Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent the proposal of the symbols, and a letter asking for access on Dewey Hill.

“As far as we're concerned that has ended the conversation right now in terms of the future of the cross,” said Plescher.

However, many are unhappy with the decision.

“I think there's some remorse. We like things staying the same,” said McGinnis.

The threat of a lawsuit was something McGinnis says was not in the city or the taxpayer’s best interest.

“We made the decision to avoid having expend additional funds, paying attorneys, and defending ourselves,” said McGinnis.

As a result of this debate two distinct groups have formed commonly known on Facebook as ‘Remove the Grand Haven Cross’ and ‘Keep the Grand Haven Cross’. The pages exploded Tuesday with differing opinions. People like Joseph Masvero, disappointed he'll never see the cross raised again.

“I think it’s unfortunate because it stands for Jesus,” he said.

Others saying justice has been served.

“We do understand that the cross has been a Grand Haven tradition, but it hasn't been everybody's traditions,” said Plescher.

Along with the cross not being raised anymore, except as an anchor for the Coast Guard Festival, the nativity scene will be taken down.