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Supreme Court declines to hear Michigan cross case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court on Monday declined [order list, PDF] to hear an appeal in a dispute to determine whether a pole can be turned into a cross on public land in Michigan.

More than 50 years ago, the "Dewey Hill Monument" was donated to Grand Haven, Michigan, as a memorial for those who served and died in the Vietnam War. The monument was placed on Dewey Hill, which Grand Haven owned, just off the Grand River. The monument has an anchoring system that can be made to display a cross or to display an anchor. Grand Haven allowed First Reformed Church to use to the monument in the shape of a cross for their worship services that were held across the river in exchange for money. Other individuals and groups also could pay the city to utilize the monument as either a cross or an anchor. In 2015, Grand Haven passed a resolution that would only allow the monument to display an anchor. Ann Dower and others who are members of the church moved for affirmative judgment based on the documents submitted to the court. The city of Grand Haven moved for judgment based on failure to state a claim. The trial court ruled for the state and the appellate court confirmed because the Free Speech Clause does not regulate government speech or the right to remove speech. The appellate court held that the city is allowed to restrict use of the monument.

The denial from the US Supreme Court appeal comes after the Michigan Supreme Court declined [order, PDF] to hear the appeal because the justices were not persuaded they should hear the questions asked by the case.

This is not the first case about a cross being displayed to be in dispute. In October the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found a 90-year-old standing cross in Maryland to be unconstitutional [JURIST report]. The US District Court for the Northern District of Florida also found a cross in a Florida park to be unconstitutional [JURIST report] last year.

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