Both sides discuss future of cross along Lake Michigan

Posted at 8:23 AM, Jan 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-07 08:24:28-05

LUDINGTON, Mich. -- A cross honoring the memory of Fr. Jacques Marquette been a staple along Pere Marquette Lake for decades, but now there are groups calling for the removal of the cross because of its religious nature.

Marquette was a French explorer who traveled the Great Lakes in the mid-1600's before passing away in 1675.

The future of the cross is expected to be decided at a special meeting planned later this month, after groups called for the Pere Marquette Township board to remove the cross.

"I just think it's unfortunate that people want to take the cross down, just because he is such a historical impact, not only to Ludington but to St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie and all throughout Michigan as well, so I just think it's kind of sad," Marie Macdonnell said.

The monument now stands on Lakeshore Drive overlooking  Pere Marquette Lake. While Marquette died in the Ludington area and was originally buried there, his remains were moved to the St. Ignace area, the home of the Father Marquette National Memorial.

Groups like the Michigan Association of Civil Rights say the cross is unconstitutional, but some locals say it's more than a religious symbol that also serves as a reference point for boaters and fishermen on the lake.

Zach Malott, who is against the removal of the cross, said "the community holds it more as a monument than a religious shrine."

FOX 17 reached out to the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists for comment on this story, and spokesman Mitch Kahle responded with the following statement:

"There's nothing new in this case until the township board votes on the matter. Based on the facts and legal precedent, we encourage the township board to take action that removes the offending cross but maintains the existing masonry structure and plaque. The township has other options, of course, but this would be a simple, reasonable, fair-minded, and virtually cost-free solution that would satisfy complainants and the law."

The meeting is planned for January 23.