Father Marquette Cross

P.M. TOWNSHIP — A Michigan organization made waves earlier this month when it threatened legal action against Pere Marquette Township if the Father Marquette Cross, memorializing missionary Jacques Marquette, is not removed.

A decision on the matter will not be made until P.M. Township meets with its legal counsel, Crystal Bultje of Dickinson Wright PLLC, at P.M. Township Hall on Thursday, Dec. 28 — but many locals are already firing back.

The township has been flooded with comments supporting the longstanding, historic monument, which marks the spot where Marquette is thought to have died in the late 1600s. The cross, on the Buttersville Peninsula, overlooks Pere Marquette Lake.

“We have received numerous phone calls, most of them commenting (that) they want that memorial, they want it the way it is and where it is,” said Township Supervisor Paul Keson. “They don’t want to see it torn down.”

Many locals also took to letters to the editor and Facebook to voice frustration — and some, agreement — with the MACRA’s efforts.

“A cross has many meanings — it doesn’t particularly mean religion,” wrote Tami Brzak Robb. “I see this cross every day across the lake driving to work, it is beautiful. It is about the man who discovered the shoreline, a market of his great expedition in finding land and a marker in remembrance of his death.”

“If it comes to the point where this historical landmark is forced to be taken down, hopefully it could be placed on private property to still be viewed by all, of given to the (Historic) White Pine Village for public display,” wrote Patti Price. “Hopefully we could replace it with a statue of Father Marquette if it goes that far.”

Suggestions from commenters ranged from encouraging P.M. — also named for Marquette — to fight the lawsuit to requesting to donation of the land to the Mason County Historical Society, or even reclassifying it as a township cemetery.

Other commenters urged attendance at the next meeting of the Pere Marquette Township Board of Trustees, planned for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 28. The meeting will be held in the larger, basement room of the Pere Marquette Township Hall, 1699 S. Pere Marquette Hwy., and is open to public comment. Keson says he expects plenty of them during the meeting, which will be held in part in closed session.

A complaint

The cross came under fire when MACRA received a complaint from an individual using the public boat ramp near the cross. 

“The large white cross is visible from many areas around Pere Marquette Lake and the City of Ludington, but mostly from the public boat launch facility and parking area where the cross looms directly overhead,” the association states in a letter to P.M. Township. “The complainant … finds the cross offensive and distracting. The complainant is forced to view the cross from virtually all points on the lake.”

The group has declined to release the name of the person who made the complaint.

“Due to the possibility of legal action, it’s not recommended that plaintiffs reveal their identity to the media,” said Association President Mitch Kahle. “Also, particularly in this area, many people fear for their security, family and jobs. This is why they contact MACRA.”

Locals have argued that, instead of demanding the cross be taken down, the individual use another local boat launch that doesn’t have a view of the monument. Other commenters demanded the association release the name of the complainant.

“This is our heritage,” wrote Michael Dick. “If you don’t like it or our Christian ways, then leave and stop trying to remove our history.”

“If you don’t like it, there are other places to put your boat in the lake,” Robb added.

Read the full story in Monday's Ludington Daily News print and e-Editions.