A city council in Michigan voted this week to place a yardarm on a flagpole—which resembles a cross—on a city-owned hill after a larger cross was removed last year after the threat of a lawsuit by an outside activist.
The Grand Haven City Council in a 3-2 vote approved the new upgraded flagpole, and some council members tried to take the vote off the agenda prior to the meeting.
"City Council and Grand Haveners know this is more than just a flagpole, that's why the council members in the minority tried to prevent a vote from even happening—thankfully, they failed. This idea is not a perfect solution, but it's an amazing step forward," said Brandon Hall, a resident of the city and a blogger for West Michigan Politics, in an email to the Washington Free Beacon.
The upgraded flagpole will sit on Dewey Hill, where a larger cross stood for 50 years before it was removed last year.
"It’s a thinly veiled effort to add a city-owned cross on city-owned property," Councilmen Bob Monetza told the local newspaper. However, he said the yardarm would likely survive any legal challenges since it is a flagpole.
For the small city, it’s being considered a victory.
"I am elated to see the Cross return to Dewey Hill. It's been a tradition in Grand Haven for over 50 years and never should have come down," said Hall. "Almost everyone I talk to is thrilled about City Council's decision."
The side of the flag arm can be used only on certain holidays—amounting to less than a week of the year.
Residents of Grand Haven were largely opposed to the cross’ removal last year, and months of heated debate and rallies occurred in the city of 11,000 residents.
One council member who voted for the removal of the original cross lost re-election—the first time in decades a sitting council member lost.
"This vote, which passed 3-2, wouldn't have been possible without the removal of one of the city councilman who first voted to take down the Cross during last November's election. Despite some controversy, I am immensely proud my PAC helped lead the fight to boot him from office, the first sitting Grand Haven councilman to lose in decades," said Hall.
Hall led the fight for the cross return and is executive director of the Save the Grand Haven Cross and Nativity PAC.
Mitch Kahle, an outside activist, threatened to sue the city if the cross was not removed. He has claimed victories in other areas to remove crosses and nativity scenes. In Hawaii, his victories include the removal of crosses in various locations, church descriptions from the official Honolulu City website, and nativity scenes. In 1997, his first victory was forcing the Army to remove a 37-foot cross at Schofield Barracks. Kayle also received the coveted Freedom from Religion Foundation award for his work in convincing the Hawaii Senate to drop prayers to open legislative sessions.