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

Posted at 11:24 AM, Feb 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-11 22:43:17-05

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