After encountering a ‘Prayer Station’ inside the Warren (MI) City Hall, an atheist resident, Douglas Marshall, sought to set up a ‘Reason Station’ in the same location, similar to the ‘Prayer Station’.
After denying Marshall’s request (“Too disruptive to the ‘Prayer station'”), the Mayor then compared atheists to the Ku Klux Klan. Marshall sued, and today a federal judge agreed that if a Christian group is allowed to have a ‘Prayer Station’, then the atheists get to have their ‘Reason Station’.
Marshall filed suit with the help of the ACLU, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Here’s what the ‘Prayer Station’ consisted of, according to the FFRF:
For six years, the city has permitted volunteers at the “prayer station” to distribute religious pamphlets, offer to pray with passersby and discuss their religious beliefs with those who approach the station.
And I have no problem with this, as long as they truly do not approach passersby, and allow those interested to approach them. The problems began when Marshall submitted his application to hold a ‘Reason Station’ two days per week in the same public atrium as the ‘Prayer Station’. The FFRF says the application was nearly identical to the ‘Prayer Station’ application, but was summarily dismissed by the mayor, James Fouts. Fouts stated in his rejection letter:
…accused Marshall of “intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion.”
Fouts also wrote:
Freedom From Religion is not a religion, has no tenets and no congregation.
“To my way of thinking, your group is strictly an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion. The City of Warren cannot allow this,” Fouts wrote, underlining the last sentence.
“Also, I believe it is group’s intention to disrupt those who participate in the prayer station, which would also be a violation of the freedom of religion amendment. For these reasons, I cannot approve of your request.”
Today a judge ruled that the city must treat believers and non-believers alike. Read that line again, Mayor Fouts.
The ACLU said in a statement:
“This result is a complete win for our side and for the First Amendment,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “It makes clear that city hall should be open to everyone – not just those who share government officials’ religious beliefs.”
The City of Warren had no comment, nor did Mayor Fouts. Of course, he may be busy facing some angry taxpayers, since this little bigoted stunt has cost the city $100,000 in court and legal fees.
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