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West Michigan County to keep sign with Bible verse

Staff and wire reports

Georgetown Township, Michigan — Commissioners in a western Michigan county gave final approval to the re-installation of a park sign that quotes the Bible.

The sign from the 1960s carries an excerpt from Psalm 19. It was removed in December from Hager Park in Ottawa County’s Georgetown Township after complaints that public property was being used to promote religion. Mitch Kahle persuaded Ottawa County to remove the sign from the park but his stance angered conservative church members.

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists has threatened legal action.

The sign has the words, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork.”

The county commissioners tentatively approved the restoration in January and gave it final approval Tuesday. The commission voted to place the sign in a new location within the park.

The sign was installed in 1967 in the 104-acre park, just west of Grand Rapids. It was removed Dec. 1, the same day Kahle complained to the county.

After Kahle lobbied to have the sign removed, he said “I’ve been called every name in the book” and said he had received hate mail and death threats in the heart of Michigan’s Bible Belt.

Kahle is a veteran of church-state separation issues: He also persuaded Grand Haven to remove a 48-foot cross from city land and got two school districts to stop a minister holding lunchtime programs at schools. In Hawaii, where he lived before moving back to Michigan, he took on the Army, the Hawaii Senate, Honolulu City Hall and other institutions.

His argument always focuses on the First Amendment, which he says prohibits government from promoting religion.

“I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve grown a pretty thick skin,” he said last month.