Park Service removes Grand Canyon plaques containing Bible verses

Posted: Friday, July 18, 2003

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) Three plaques with Bible verses were removed from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon after federal parks officials decided the markers violated the separation of church and state.

Thirty years ago, the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Phoenix affixed the plaques to buildings at Hermits Rest, Lookout Studio and Desertview Tower all popular viewing areas.

But the Arizona American Civil Liberties Union and others recently complained that displaying the verses Psalms 68:4, 66:4 and 104:24 was unconstitutional.

The Department of Interior then determined that the plaques were not appropriate for a federal public park, said Maureen Oltrogge, spokeswoman for the Grand Canyon National Park. The plaques were removed July 9.

The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary said it was ''stunned'' by the decision. The park plans to return the plaques to the group, which describes itself as an interdenominational organization founded in 1947 within the framework of the German Evangelical (Protestant) Church.

''These plaques have inspired many of the awe-struck beholders to admire and acknowledge the Creator of this majestic landscape spread before their eyes,'' the sisterhood said in a statement.

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