Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

October 7, 2012

Michigan in Brief: 10/07/2012

FRANKENMUTH —

55-foot cross to remain in park

A Michigan city said a 55-foot cross erected in a public park is staying put, rejecting criticism from a group that claims it's an illegal endorsement of religion.

"The cross was raised up by a grateful community. And this community will fight to keep it," attorney Richard Thompson said in response to a complaint from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a group based in Washington, D.C.

The group asked Frankenmuth in July to remove the white cross, which is in Cross Park, across a state highway from Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, a huge holiday store that has helped make Frankenmuth a popular tourist destination, 80 miles northeast of Lansing.

Americans United said it's disappointed but not surprised by Frankenmuth's response. It is willing to file a lawsuit if a resident steps forward to be the plaintiff.

"It is an egregious constitutional violation, and violation of separation of church and state," legal director Alex Luchenitser told Mlive.com (bit.ly/R13hvE). "It sends a message that the city holds Christianity above all other religions and a message that non-Christians are not welcome."

Frankenmuth is being represented by Thompson and the Thomas More Law Center, which specializes in legal issues involving Christianity. Thompson said the cross was erected to honor the country's 200th birthday in 1976 and celebrate Frankenmuth's history and culture.

"The purpose of the cross was not to promote, endorse or coerce anyone to convert to Christianity," Thompson said.

His letter to Americans United cited cases in which courts have allowed governments to display religious symbols.

AP-WF-10-06-12 1947GMT

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