PERE MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP, Michigan — A northern Michigan township has agreed to sell land where a large cross honors a famous Catholic missionary.

Pere Marquette Township in Mason County lately has been criticized for spending public money on a religious symbol, a 40-foot memorial cross built in 1955 near Lake Michigan.

The township and the memorial are named for Father Jacques Marquette, a 17th century missionary.

Marquette, who hailed from France, is one of the first European explorers to have explored the area of the northern Mississippi river and his name is attached to many area institutions and monuments.

The township board agreed Tuesday to sell the property to a local group for $800, rejecting a $2,000 bid from the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Wisconsin.

Attorney Ed White tells WPBN-TV that the Pere Marquette Memorial Association will maintain the site with its own money.

“It was better because it was a concrete offer, it was concrete to show what would happen to the property, how they would maintain the property, there was details,” said White. “Whereas the other offer was just hey we’ll give you two thousand dollars.”

An attorney from the religious liberty law firm Becket told Crux in January that the cross is not a sign of coercion or proselytization, but recognition of the area’s history.

“The reality is that the Establishment Clause does not require us to censor every reference to religion in our history and culture,” said Eric Baxter, counsel at Becket.

“The arguments made by the Freedom From Religion Foundation are ridiculous and they have a spectacular record of losing these kind of cases,” Baxter told Crux. “They basically spend all of their time going around the country looking for any sign of religion in the public square and threaten to sue over it.”

Crux staff contributed to this report.