Mason Co. Community Rallies To Save Pere Marquette Cross At Public Meeting

“History has no voice. We must be the voice of history.”

A symbol standing as memorial for a historic explorer and missionary, a cross in the woods and a very loud call to save it.

The Pere Marquette Cross has stood in Mason County since 1955, in honor of explorer Father Jacque Marquette.

Two groups say its place on public property and the money spent to maintain it is unconstitutional.

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA) and the Freedom from Religion Foundation say the cross violates the First Amendment by being on display and being maintained by public funding.

More than 140 people from the township showed up tonight to disagree, a very loud call to save it Tuesday night.

“To me, it borderlines ridiculous,” one man said.

The Peterson’s Auditorium in Ludington was standing room only, filled with mostly supporters for a cross in the woods.

To those like Nancy and Ken Motyga, it’s more than a monument.

“I can remember back in the day when there was a wooden cross out there rather than a steel cross and then the township came to my dad and asked him if he would like to build the steel work,” Motyga said. “The marker out there is not religious.”

Jean Christian also sees beyond what the Pere Marquette Cross stands for.

In it, she sees the legacy of her father.

“He portrayed him in all the pageants,” Christian said. “The last pageant I knew about was 1955 in Ludington when Mason County had its centennial.”

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists and the Freedom from Religion Foundation says the cross violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

“We are looking at a very large religious symbol that is owned by the township and maintained by the township,” says Mitch Kahle, co-founder of MACRA out of Muskegon. “The government cannot be involved in promoting religion. Religion is for individuals to decide and not everybody has the same religion.”

A torrent of township residents followed, many saying not so fast.

“It stands as memorial to the person whose name is on this township,” said one.

“It hurts my heart,” said another, a 16-year-old girl. “I’ve lived here my whole life. It is something that I remember. I’ve taken my friends out there to see it.”

As for Jean, she hopes it doesn’t vanish from the skyline.

“I compare it to Arlington Cemetery,” Christian says. “I really hope that they designate it as a historic site.”

The township board will now consider everything they heard at Tuesday’s meeting.