A private group will buy a 40-foot cross memorial near Ludington for $800.
Last night, the Pere Marquette Township Board of Trustees voted to sell the one-acre property containing the cross to the Pere Marquette Memorial Association, which plans to maintain the cross.
The cross memorial was built in 1955. It honors Pere Marquette, a Jesuit missionary who came to Michigan in the 17th century.
The decision by the township board to sell the memorial was reached after complaints were made about public funds being used to maintain the site. That’s when the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists threatened the township with legal action.
Mitch Kahle is with MACRA. He says the township has a responsibility to get the most value for the land.
“If it seems like what they’re really doing here is just trying to preserve the cross and preserve the status quo,” he says, “then it could be viewed as a sham sale and it could be a situation where the township ends up in court anyway.”
The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation offered to buy the site for $2,000, but board members decided against the offer. Crystal Bultje, a lawyer representing the township, says the offer from the FFRF didn't include any information about how the site and deed restriction would be maintained.
"The township was really motivated by keeping the property with local people who would be there to take care of the site," Bultje says.