Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Grand Haven Isn't Divided, And This Isn't About "Equal Access"

By Brandon Hall
(Email him at

After a comment by someone on the "Grand Haven Informed" Facebook group, I started to do some thinking.

The Tribune has said Grand Haven is "divided," but I wholeheartedly disagree.

 In fact, Grand Havenders of all political stripes, as well as gays, Jews, and many Atheists have spoken out against Mitch Kahle's effort to bully Grand Haven.

Grand Haven is united. One liberal friend quipped that Kahle is the "Westboro Baptist Church" version of Athesits.

Grand Havenders know a bully when they see one, and Mitch Kahle has a proven track record of bullying and hateful statements.

It's well documented. 

Yesterday, I was accused by fellow GHAPS Board of Education candidate Nichol Stack of "witchhunting" Kahle and told that this situation is all about "equal access."

Nichol Stack: "To answer your question as to whether or not kahle has an anti christian agenda: how the heck should i know??? i have never met him. i am not a part of his facebook page. i have had zero communication with him in my lifetime. all i know is what i've read in the papers: that he's brought before the board a request for equal access to the hill. PERIOD. i agree with equal access. PERIOD. 

If you want to witch hunt kahle because he supposedly hates christians- go nuts...but that has nothing to do with me. you can do whatever you want with what you've dug up about this man. BUT stop trying to imply that those of us that agree with equal access are inextricably linked to kahle. we are not...he just happened to be the guy that brought it to the council. he is a stranger to me -please do not ask me to judge him again....just to be clear, the motion for equal access isn't is unapproved. i choose to have faith in our council that it will ultimately be approved."

I find her post to be very interesting, and it also exemplifies what many of those hostile to the Cross on Dewey claim: this isn't about Mitch Kahle, it's about equal access.

I had asked her and some others if the hateful statements from Kahle listed HERE were in fact hateful. (Warning: Explicit Content Within) 

They wouldn't say.

Let us be perfectly clear: this case has EVERYTHING to do with Mitch Kahle. This is no witch hunt, and he doesn't supposedly hate Christians, he does.

Kahle is the one starting all of this. Kahle is the one comparing Cross supporters to Klansman. Kahle is the one who profits off of actions like this.  Kahle is the one who will have his name on the lawsuit-and yes, there will be one. And Kahle is the one who was recruited by Americans United For Separation of Church and State to come to West Michigan and instigate trouble. Without Kahle, none of this is happening. PERIOD.

(The group sent a letter in winter of 2012 to Grand Haven City leaders, then seemingly dispatched Kahle to West Michigan to find residents who they could co-opt. enter the Pleschers. Kahle has been associated with he group for years, profiting while terrorizing Hawaii families with his ruthless tactics.)

No one has filed a complaint about the Cross on Dewey Hill during summer worship services in the 52 years they have occurred. 

That Cross was originally erected for Christmas-not to promote Christianity and intimidate people of other faiths as Kahle claims.

Also, the only group that has ever been denied access to Dewey Hill was ArtWalk, the art festival in Grand Haven that coincides with ArtPrize. That was because of environmental concerns with Dewey Hill-the same reason Council banned the "Coast Guard City USA" sign-later restored after a public uproar.

The cross is displayed while Waterfront Stadium is rented out every Sunday during the summer. The service is completely voluntary. 

City Manager Pat McGinnis has made it absolutely clear that the space is open to all faiths who would like to use it-Buddhists, Muslims, Jews-whomever. The City passed a resolution in 2013 that facilitates that process. No religious group has ever been denied access to the hill, nor has one ever requested such assess.

For over 50 years, the Cross has been a part of Grand Haven. It's interesting that many of those who preach diversity and tolerance have no interest in putting up a symbol of their own, they just want to destroy the Cross and turn Dewey Hill into a politically charged billboard for their far left causes.

Kahle has been wrong before. He claimed that the Hawaii State Senate's Ceremonial Opening Prayer was unconstitutional, and was actually successful in getting them to end the prayer. 

(Not before cashing in on a six figure lawsuit, one of multiple lawsuits he's profited off of while bullying people of faith.) 

But the United States Supreme Court ruled this year that such prayers are indeed Constitutional, and now Hawaii's Senate may bring them back:

"(The) Supreme Court upheld decidedly Christian prayers at the start of local council meetings on Monday, declaring them in line with long national traditions "

And In an editorial blasting Mitch Kahle, a Hawaii newspaper said Kahle was completely wrong in his attempt to remove crosses from the scene of a tragic mudslide inside of a Hawaii State Park on Mothers Day of 1999. If only the Tribune had such guts.

"CONSTITUTIONAL separation of church and state does not mean that government property must be devoid of any manifestation of religion. Eight wooden crosses memorializing the victims of the 1999 Mother's Day rockslide at Sacred Falls in Windward Oahu were an expression of First Amendment rights, not a violation of the same amendment's prohibition of government establishment of religion. The crosses, which were erected by a grieving relative of one of the victims, should be returned."

They continued:

"Mitchell Kahle, president of Hawaii Citizens for Separation of Church and State, complained last month that the crosses created "the appearance of a government preference for the Christian religion." Kahle's deduction was mistaken, as far-fetched as concluding that a cross seen at the location of a fatal traffic accident is anything more than the sign of a family's expression of grief."

They are also wrong in many instances about the scope of the Establishment Clause.

Let Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion of the Supreme Court in the famous Mojave Cross Case, clarify some things for you:

"The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm. A cross by the side of a public highway marking, for instance, the place where a state trooper perished need not be taken as a statement of governmental support for sectarian beliefs.

The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgment of religion’s role in society. See Lee v. Weisman, 505 U. S. 577, 598 (1992) (“A relentless and all-pervasive attempt to exclude religion from every aspect of public life could itself become inconsistent with the Constitution”).See also Corporation of Presiding Bishop of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. Amos, 483 U. S. 327,334 (1987)

The Court has long recognized that the government may (and sometimes must) accommodate religious practices and that it may do so without violating the Establishment Clause,"

Kennedy also said in the case ruling Christian prayer at government meetings were Constitutional that:
"In their declarations in the trial court, respondents stated that the prayers gave them offense and made them feel excluded and disrespected. Offense, however, does not equate to coercion. Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable; and an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views."

Kennedy also said:

"Nor did the Court imply the rule that prayer violates the Establishment Clause any time it is given in the name of a figure deified by only one faith or creed. See Van Orden, 545 U. S., at 688, n. 8 (recognizing that the prayers in Marsh were “often explicitly Christian” and 
rejecting the view that this gave rise to an establishment  violation). 

To the contrary, the Court instructed that the “content of the prayer is not of concern to judges,” provided  “there is no indication that the prayer opportunity has 
been exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief.” 

That nearly all of the congregations in town  turned out to be Christian does not reflect an aversion or  bias on the part of town leaders against minority faiths. 

So long as the town maintains a policy of non discrimination, the Constitution does not require it to search beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to achieve religious balancing. The quest to promote “a ‘diversity’ of religious views” would require the town “to

make wholly inappropriate judgments about the number of religions [it] should sponsor and the relative frequency with which it should sponsor each,” Lee, 505 U. S., at 617 "

>>>Why anyone would think a City with an equal access policy that has never discriminated against any religious group should have to be bullied by a shakedown artist into allowing a political sideshow on a sensitive dune area because it rents out space for a voluntary religious service no residents have ever challenged is beyond me.

And does Kahle plan on paying the City as Worship On The Waterfront does? And private donors pay for Cross maintenance-I saw no mention of any type of payment plan in the "demand letter."

We have work to do to make Grand Haven more inclusive for all of our families, but make no mistake: removing the cross will help no one except a few people trying to cause trouble and procure media attention. It will create far more angst and useless drama than anything else.

Grand Haven won't be bullied by the PC Police, and those who are offended merely by the display of a cross would do well to find something worthwhile to get fired up about. 

As long as the Tribune continues to give Kahle a free pass, WMP will continue to speak out.

Because "a bully is a bully, no matter how tall." (Kahle is almost 6'4)

Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.
Email him at
Photo By Darlene Dowling Thompson

1 comment:

  1. Hello I am so delighted I located your blog, I really located you by mistake, while I was watching on google for something else, Anyways I am here now and could just like to say thank for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining website. Please do keep up the great work.
    West Michigan graphic