JENISON, Mich. — Christians in Michigan are urging officials in Ottawa County to restore a sign citing Scripture to a public park after it was removed following a complaint from a local resident.
The sign at issue quotes from Psalm 19:1, which reads, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”It was erected at Hager Park in Jenison in the late 60’s or early 70’s by the county road commission. It has remained at the site for at least 40 years.
However, recently an unidentified resident complained to officials about the sign, asserting that it was wrongful to promote Christianity with public resources. John Scholtz, Ottawa County Parks and Recreation director, told MLive that after consulting with the board about the matter, he had the sign removed.
“We add and remove signs, buildings and structures from the parks on a routine basis,” Scholtz stated. “In this case, I consulted the parks commission and then decided to have the sign removed in order to reduce potential conflicts in the park.”
He said that current park policy prohibits signs that do not serve informational purposes.
But a number of Christians throughout the area are now calling upon the Ottowa County Board of Commissioners to the restore the sign to its place. Ryan Kooienga, senior pastor at Harvest Baptist Church in Hudsonville, spoke before the commission during a meeting on Tuesday.
“If we don’t take a stand now, when will we?” he asked.
Area resident Aaron Cooley-Themm has also initiated a petition drive on Change.org over the matter and is collecting signatures from those who agree that the sign should be returned to the park. According to reports, Themm collected over 800 signatures in his first week alone.
Others are speaking out through letters to the editor of their local newspaper.
“But we have a bit of news for these perceptive citizens [who oppose the sign]. Nothing has changed, except that the sign is gone. The heavens still declare the glory of God and the firmament still shows His handiwork,” wrote resident Ron Baker of Georgetown to MLive. “If they are offended by that, they will have to take it up with the Almighty God.”
“They have not offended us who accept the Bible as God’s Word, but they have offended the God whose Word they want removed from Hager Park. And that is a dangerous thing to do,” he continued. “So, my friends, consider the risk you are taking by confronting the Almighty God. In the final end, He wins!”
Scholtz has asked an attorney to review the matter, who is expected to provide his opinion next month. He remarked that if the county allows the Scriptural sign to be returned to the park, it may have to also allow signs from other religions as well.
“I believe in God and sharing His gospel with everyone. How can people think that bringing the Bible to them is offensive?” asked supporterAshton Dykstra of Byron Center. “We want everyone to join us in Heaven. Why can’t they understand that? Its sad the way this world treats Christians who are only trying to bring everyone with them into glory.”