Grand Canyon a Praiseworthy Natural Setting in God Debate

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 31, 2003 | Go to article overview

Grand Canyon a Praiseworthy Natural Setting in God Debate


Byline: Julia Duin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The fight for the right to post biblical passages in public places has spread to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, where three plaques quoting verses from the book of Psalms were removed from scenic overlooks.

The plaques are back at the canyon's edge now, pending a decision from federal officials.Inquiries made by the American Civil Liberties Union prompted National Park Service staffers to take down the markers in early July, on grounds that religious expressions do not belong in a federal park.

But after a public protest erupted at the instigation of a Los Angeles talk show host, workers restored the plaques July 23 and await an Interior Department ruling on the ACLU inquiries.

"The ACLU honestly didn't do anything but raise the question, and the local staff reacted to that inquiry," Interior spokesman David Barna said.

Calls to the ACLU by The Washington Times were not immediately returned.

The "praise plaques" quoting Psalms came down following the May court ruling ordering removal from the Alabama Supreme Court rotunda of a 5,280-pound granite monument that includes passages from the Ten Commandments.

Brown, foot-square Fiberglas plaques bearing Bible verses in white script have been posted since the late 1960s at three of the most scenic overlooks on the south rim of the Grand Canyon: Hermit's Rest, Lookout Studio and Desertview Tower.

The donors of the praise plaques, the Germany-based Protestant nuns called the Evangelical Sisters of Mary, say no harm has been done by the more than 2,000 plaques placed in scenic spots around the world.

"Their whole purpose is to give honor to God for the beauty of His creation," said Sister Mary Anne Hines, a spokeswoman for the order's Phoenix branch.

Interior's Mr. Barna said many religious symbols dot the U.

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