Religion

Michigan Residents Sue Town Over Controversial City Ordinance

| by Kendal Mitchell

Michigan community members filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, claiming a past resolution violated their freedom of religion.

Helen Brickman, an attorney from Grand Haven, argued in the Ottawa County Circuit Court on behalf of a group called Citizens of Grand Haven.

In January, Grand Haven City Council voted 3-2 to allow certain types of structures and displays on Dewey Hill. The council voted on the issue after Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a national humanist group, sent a letter saying the depiction of the cross violates the Constitution.

In the group’s complaint, they wrote that they would seek legal action if the City Council did not remove the cross.

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The City Council approved that the American flag can still reside on the hill, and Fourth of July and Coast Guard Festival firework displays can occur.

However, the large cross traditionally placed on the hill during summer Sunday evening church services can no longer be on the hill.

Brickman said she thinks the religious community of Grand Haven is being unfairly targeted because of their beliefs.
“Religious people are easy to beat up on,” Brinkman said. “I’m putting my name out there so the people I represent don’t have to get bullied.”

City council’s decision to remove the cross violates the constitutional right of freedom of speech and expression, Brickman said.

“We’re basically asking the judge to declare that the resolution was unconstitutional,” she added.

If the judge listening to the case rules in favor of Brickman’s suit, the January ordinance would no longer take effect and the hill’s old regulations would be reinforced.

“We are obviously open as to how they can resolve this, short of discriminating against the cross,” Brickman said.

Sources: Holland Sentinel / Photo Credit: Grand Haven Tribune