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Group asks Ottawa Co. to remove religious sign from Hager Park

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JENISON, Mich. -- The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is asking Ottawa County Commissioners to reverse their decision to reinstall a controversial sign in Hager Park.

The sign, which contains Psalm  19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork," was initially removed by the parks department in December after complaints that it violated the separation of church and state.    Commissioners voted 9-2 on Jan. 27 to put it back up.

"It is inappropriate for the County to display a bible verse on a billboard in a County park because it conveys government support for religion, and bible-based religion in particular," reads a letter to commissioners from FFRF attorney Rebecca S. Markert.

Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County administrator, said while the entire board of commissioners have yet to read the letter he doesn't anticipate it will change their minds.

"To me this hasn't been as much about the constitution or the bible as much as community values," Vanderberg said. "Certainly, in Jenison you have strong community values that backed wanting the sign put back out."

The letter cites several Supreme Court cases dealing with the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.

"The Supreme Court has said time and again that the 'First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,'" it reads.

Read the full letter


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  • yup

    I’m sick of the stupid anti everyone groups. If you don’t like don’t look I’m no bible thumper and do think some go over board but as sick as atheists are to seeing religious items or sayings I’m sick of seeing there opinions. As a young adult I would never think of putting a cross up I thought it was not my job but now whether I like it or not I’m seeing how big I can get them. P.s. Atheists they are on private property and I will fight. I hope every religion stands up against you.

    • George

      A public park isn’t private property. The lawn of a person’s home is private property. A courthouse lawn isn’t private property. The park in an apartment complex is private property.

      In this situation it’s public land being used to endorse a specific religion. This is an encroachment onto space that people of all faiths pay tax dollars to maintain. Sorry, but you’re wrong and this is worth taking legal action.

  • Webster

    I wish everyone who wanted to weigh in on this knew the whole history: A religious sign was a contractual condition of the donation of the land, originally. Just give the whole parcel back to the family, and let them sell it to family fare.


    I don’t get it. The FFRF wants the plaque removed. If it were a quote from Dr. Seuss would they want it removed? Why do they care about some random quote from some random book. Unless, of course, they seem to think there’s something unique about this particular book.

    • George

      Hi Lunacy. No, the FFRF wouldn’t care about a quote from Dr. Seuss because it’s not a case of the government promoting one religion over another. The goal here is to keep the government from accidentally or purposefully pushing Christianity on Muslim believers, or forcing Sharia Law on Jewish adherents.
      That Seuss quote might be a copyright issue tho.

  • Pips

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Pretty sure a sign in a park is not equivalent to a law.

    • M Q

      The laws in question here include the laws that compel citizens to pay taxes that pay for the sign and pay for the land that the sign is put on. Using any public resources for a religious message is clearly an establishment of religion. Choosing a sign of one religion (paid for by taxpayers) to be put on public property, also paid for by taxpayers is a blatant violation of the constitution.

      What if the commissioners decided instead to put a verse from the Koran there? Or how about a Satanic message? Would you still be in favor of it?

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