City removes Christian messages from playground equipment after atheist grandparent complains

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Facebook/Delaware Valley Chapter, Americans United for Separation of Church & State

NEWARK, Del. (Christian Examiner) -- In mid-October, the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a complaint to Newark city officials about playground equipment displaying the Bible story of Noah's Ark.

The action resulted from the complaint by a grandfather who said the structure offended his atheist beliefs.

The city plans to remove the artwork and text, and now the facebook page of the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church & State is claiming "victory in keeping government from promoting religion."

There were no previous complaints about the playground equipment though it had been a longstanding display, but exactly when the equipment was installed remains unknown, city spokesman Ricky Nietubicz told the Newark Post.

It is certain, however, that in future safety inspections, Newark park employees will have a "heightened level of awareness" in examining whether equipment has similar religious content, he said.

The grandfather belongs to a Delaware atheist community, a 100-member group launched in 2013. The group's leader Chuck Dyke contacted Americans United who filed  the complaint after the Biblical content was "discovered."

Associate Legal Director for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Alex Luchenitser, said the display was a clear violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, "Nobody should have to choose between not going to a public playground or having their children exposed to religious messages."

The display was removed at the recommendation of the City Solicitor Bruce Herron. "It was pretty obvious Christian messaging," Nietbuicz notedå. "We had no problem removing it."