Ottawa County to Put Religious Sign Back in Public Park

Well this was inevitable. As soon as the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners got involved after the parks and rec department removed a sign with a Bible verse from a public park, you knew they were going to reverse that decision and put the sign back. You don’t get reelected without pandering to the Christian right in West Michigan.

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.

Opening prayer set the stage for the commissioners’ meeting, which included a passionate debate about religion and politics in Ottawa County after the sign was removed when some complained it violated the separation of church and state…

County commissioners eventually returned from an hour in closed session with a decision to return the sign as part of a memorial for Titus Hager, who donated land to the park. Also included will be an informational sign letting people know the county does not endorse any religious views.

They got a legal opinion from their attorneys on this, but that opinion makes clear that just putting up a disclaimer is not enough. That legal memo says that while having the sign there is not a violation of the Establishment Clause, its presence makes it necessary to have a limited public forum in the park and allow other signs as well. It isn’t clear that the board did so explicitly at the meeting, but the next step is obviously for other groups to start submitting their own signs. If the board refuses them, they are going against their own attorney’s legal advice and that likely voids their liability insurance. They should ask the Dover school board how that works out for them. Here’s the legal memo:

Hager Legal Opinion

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  • kantalope

    This sign is so important that it can’t be removed while at the same time this sign is so unimportant that if you don’t like it you should just ignore it.

  • Modusoperandi

    Finally! The park really was missing something without the bible quote. I couldn’t truly stand in awe at the glory of nature without being told that God should be credited for design, construction and maintenance.

    More importantly, I now have someone to sue for all those bee stings. Plus some ants ate my sandwich that one time.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Behold the face of Satan, the beginning of comfort, whose eyes are the brightness of the stars, which provided you for the government of the Earth, and her unspeakable variety; furnishing you a power of understanding to dispose all things according to the providence of Him that sitteth on the Infernal Throne.

    The Satanic Bible, 19th Enochian Key

  • culuriel

    I would like to know if the lawyer came up with that quote about thinking God is dead from the mess on earth. I Googled that and came up empty. If it’s his creation, he really should claim that and get it on a T-shirt.

  • Ethan Myerson

    In the lawyer’s opinion letter, he talks about potential drawbacks of having the park host a variety of cosmological positions. Among those drawbacks is the note that “Certainly such a park is likely to draw vandals”. The sign, as it has existed for decades hasn’t drawn vandals, has it? So, he’s not really concerned about atheists vandalizing the Christian message. It must be something else…

  • abb3w

    @0, Ed Brayton

    It isn’t clear that the board did so explicitly at the meeting, but the next step is obviously for other groups to start submitting their own signs.

    Possibly accompanied by an FOIA request for a copy of the limited public forum guidelines for acceptance or refusal of signs as exist as of the date of submission, to help nail the board into a corner (so to speak).

  • eric

    It isn’t clear that the board did so explicitly at the meeting, but the next step is obviously for other groups to start submitting their own signs

    The meeting schedule for consideration of other signs probably look like this:

    January 2015: Consider Titus Hager bible quote sign.

    February 3015: Consider next submitted plaque.

  • martinc

    It’s interesting that the legal opinion wasn’t just full of legal mumbo-jumbo that bears of little brain might fail to understand. It states categorically what the implications of putting the sign back up are, and even gives examples of signs that the park would have to allow as well, including “I look to the heavens and see only emptiness. I see no evidence of a God” and “The heavens reveal the glory of Allah”. The lawyer could not have made it more clear: he’s said that if you put the sign back, you have to also allow signs touting atheism and Islam. But there’s none so blind etc. etc. … and anyway, those legal fights against the Constitution only use taxpayers’ money.

  • ChristineRose

    Do these people even know what they are saying? The firmament is a dome made out of sapphire. It’s about a mile up, covers the flat earth, and the gods walk on it. The stars run back and forth on it, and the sun and planets are gods. They should take the schoolkids to the park and explain it to them. I suggest the locals start holding tours. I’m sure there are other fun sites, such as places where pro-slavery sermons were preached, or houses where people prayed for healing and God’s will was done anyhow.