A Grand Haven, Michigan, judge heard arguments on May 29 over city leaders’ decision to no longer allow the display of a 48-foot cross on city-owned Dewey Hill.
The cross has been on Dewey Hill for nearly 50 years, but in January, the Grand Haven City Council voted 3-2 to prohibit it, or any other display besides an anchor, reports WZZM.
On Friday in Ottawa County Circuit Court, Judge Jon Hulsing put the case on hold to consider whether the plaintiffs can legally stay anonymous while the case proceeds.
A group, known only as the Citizens of Grand Haven, filed a lawsuit on April 1, stating the removal of the Dewey Hill cross violates religious freedom and free speech, according to the Michigan Constitution and the Michigan Civil Rights Act.
The group’s attorney, Helen Brinkman, said keeping the identity of the members anonymous is for their protection.
“Their identities really have nothing to do with the facts, the resolution, anything,” Brinkman told Fox17. “Nothing is gained by putting their names out there other than Mr. Kahle taking the notes down and he has a new target.”
The city council voted following activist Mitch Kahle’s legal threats, claiming the religious symbol on public property violates the constitution.
“We would never threaten anybody: the statements of [Brinkman] were patently false and we are highly offended by them,” Kahle said, according to Fox17.
When asked if her clients were threatened with physical violence, Brinkman replied no, “but the threat of a lawsuit is a very real threat.”
"I'm not entirely clear what the threat is still, I guess it's the threat of legal action, and of course that's something every plaintiff in the state faces the threat of anytime they file a lawsuit," Kevin Sutton, the city's defense attorney, said.
Kahle, who sat in court Friday, said he wants to make sure the cross is not reinstated and claimed he had no contact with the group.
Judge Hulsing will issue a written decision on the case in the “very near future.” Until then, supporters of the cross said even if the lawsuit does not go through, another will be filed to get the cross restored.