For most of the past 50 years, if you walked into Hager Park in Jenison, Michigan, you might have seen this sign near the picnic shelter:
It’s an Old Testament verse, Psalm 19:1:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.”
That doesn’t belong in a public park…
This biblical passage, from the Old Testament (King James version), serves no secular purpose, endorses and promotes Judeo-Christianity over other religions, and demonstrates excessive government engagement with religion. The sign violates the constitutional rights of Ottawa County residents and other taxpayers and park users who do not subscribe to the Judeo-Christian faith.
The 10 members of the Parks Commission agreed that the sign had to come down, so they removed it.
The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners voted 9-2 Tuesday to re-install a religious sign at Hager Park. There will also be a disclaimer attached saying the county does not necessarily endorse the sign.
I don’t see how that makes a difference. You can’t have government officials put up a Christian sign in a public park and then stand around and say, “We’re totally not promoting Christianity!”
As the saying goes, don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. We see what you’re doing.
What’s next in Ottawa County? Will local schoolchildren have to pray five times a day facing Mecca while a voice over the intercom says “We’re not promoting Islam”?
If they thought the sign might be unconstitutional before, it’s sure as hell unconstitutional now. Unless they make it a limited public forum, in which case The Satanic Temple and atheist groups everywhere may want a crack at putting up their own signs. I’m sure local residents would *love* that.
For what it’s worth, the sign isn’t going back up yet. The Ottawa County Parks Commission still has to approve the reinstallation and that hasn’t happened yet. In the meantime, MACRA is exploring its legal options.
If the Parks Commission puts the sign back up, though, they’re just asking for a lawsuit — and the chance to throw away taxpayer money in what will surely be a losing case.
(Thanks to Andrew and Brian for the link. Portions of this article were posted earlier)