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City hit with 2nd lawsuit over cross

Becky Vargo • Jul 22, 2015 at 12:12 PM

Local resident Brandon Hall filed the lawsuit Monday against the city.

"This Sunday, for the first time in over 50 years, the Dewey Hill cross will not be raised as a part of Worship on the Waterfront services,” Hall said. “This is unacceptable, and that's why I am asking for emergency relief from the Circuit Court.”

A local church hosts worship services at Waterfront Stadium on Sunday evenings, which has included the raising of a cross across the river at Dewey Hill. This summer’s Worship on the Waterfront series begins June 28.

Hall’s lawsuit joins one filed last week by attorney Helen Brinkman on behalf of a group of current residents and one former Grand Haven resident.

Both lawsuits claim a resolution approved by City Council on Jan. 5 violates religious freedom protections. The resolution was a response to a threat of a lawsuit by a group called “Remove the Grand Haven Cross” through the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The group wanted to erect displays of its own choosing on Dewey Hill.

Read the lawsuit document: Download the PDF below (Related File)

The City Council resolution restricts displays on public areas of Dewey Hill — with a few exceptions, such as the American flag.

Hall asks that a temporary restraining order be placed to keep the city from enforcing its Jan. 5 resolution, aimed at allowing the Dewey Hill cross to be displayed during Worship on the Waterfront services until a hearing on his request for a preliminary injunction. He requests a show-cause hearing as to why a preliminary injunction should not be granted, and to have that hearing within 14 days, or by June 26 if a temporary restraining order is not granted.

The preliminary injunction, if granted, would force the city not to implement the resolution while the case is being litigated.

Hall’s final request is that the court enter judgment stating that the resolution is illegal and in violation of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act; and unconstitutional, in violation of the Michigan and U.S. constitutions.

“The Dewey Hill cross is part of a Grand Haven tradition that shouldn't end because of Mitch Kahle's Christian bullying and legal threats,” Hall said. “In seeking this injunction, I am following the advice of Hawaii state Sen. Sam Slom, who dealt with Kahle's legal terror for many years. Sen. Slom suggested in a recent newspaper article that people seek injunctions to stop Kahle, and that is what this attempts to do."

Kahle, a Norton Shores resident who started the effort to get the cross removed from Dewey Hill, said that Hall’s home-spun complaint is “riddled with errors, false claims and uninformed statements, and it will be dismissed on the first motion.”

“The earlier complaint, filed by attorney Helen Brinkman, is also misguided and factually inaccurate,” Kahle said. “Both complaints rely heavily on newspaper reporting and Internet blogs for ‘facts,’ and the legal claims and interpretations demonstrate plaintiffs’ and counsel’s complete lack of experience in First Amendment cases.”

Kahle claims that City Manager Pat McGinnis failed to tell the truth about the religious symbols on Dewey Hill and that he didn’t take appropriate action in the best interest of city taxpayers.

“Mr. McGinnis’ inappropriate actions have exacerbated the situation, resulting in misguided litigation that continues to the cost the taxpayers of Grand Haven many tens of thousands of dollars,” Kahle said.

McGinnis told the Tribune that the city has been served the first lawsuit and it has been turned over to attorneys for the city’s insurance provider. The city has yet to be served the Brandon Hall lawsuit, the city manager said.

McGinnis would not comment on either lawsuit because they are pending litigation.

 

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