Peterson auditorium was filled with hundred during last night's meeting with the Pere Marquette Township Board regarding the Father Marquette Memorial, which depicts a cross. The townships lawyer Crystal Bultje opened with forum rules and by providing some background information on the cross. "The township essentially inherited the cross, which is part of the Father Marquette memorial, about 30 years ago from the city of Ludington. It was originally donated from the Butters family. A couple of years ago the township started saving up money to pay for restoration project, which was approved in 2017. After the board approved the restoration project it received a letter, which has been followed by several other letters from individuals and groups that are questioning the townships ability to maintain the cross on public land and to pay for it with public funds."
The majority voiced their support in keeping the cross, saying it is not an issue of religion but that of history, including resident Jean McCumber
“Pere Marquette was not only a Jesuit priest, he was a teacher, a mathematician, an explorer. He befriended the Indians. He spoke six different dialects of Indian. There was a bolder that was put up in 1921 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It reads: ‘This marks the traditional location of the death of Father Pere Marquette, revered and loved by the red man. Noted French missionary and explorer. The first white man to reach these chores.’ That’s history. They put a cross because he asked to put a cross because he was dying at 38 from dysentery. All he wanted was a simple wooden cross to mark his grave."
Director of the Michigan Oak initiative; responsible for the Make Michigan Great Again facebook page, and Grassroots Vice Chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Mark Gurley said the removal of the cross would be an attack on Christianity.
“I do not want to see the cross removed just because an atheist who has chosen his form of religion, which is humanism, over the Christian religion or the Judeo Christian worldview. [Christianity is] the foundation of our country.”
Peg Gage was the first to speak in favor of the separation of Church and State, suggesting the township pursue other options. “ First I’m very much in favor of historical monuments.” She said, “Second I’m very much in favor of religious symbols being displayed on private property. I’m also very much in favor of the establishment clause in the Constitution which prevents public money from being spent to promote a particular religion. The separation of church and state allows each of these formidable powers to act as checks and balances on each other.”
The topic spanned all ages, inviting long term residents and the youth to speak. Teenager Isaac Durand asked the audience for resolution, “If something does happen and we do need to take it down, I feel like we’ve got to remember to not be angry, to just keep love in our hearts and just be accepting even if we do have to take it down. I feel like it doesn’t go against the constitution to keep it up, but I also don’t think it should affect our Christianity or beliefs if it is taken down. I just want you to know that you should accept each other even if you disagree.”
Once speakers ran out, Township Supervisor Paul Keson wrapped up the meeting by confirming that the township appreciated the comments and would evaluate all options when moving forward.