Michigan City Officials Agree to Allow Atheist Display Near City Hall ‘Prayer Station’

Prayer StationWARREN, Mich. — City officials in Warren, Michigan have agreed to allow an atheist display near an existing “prayer station” in city hall, settling a lawsuit filed by several church-state separation groups over the matter.

As previously reported, Warren resident and member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) Douglas Marshall submitted a request last year to the Downtown Development Authority to use the atrium at city hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to run a “reason station,” where he would promote free thought.

However, according to reports, Marshall requested the same times that the “prayer station” is utilized to offer prayers for residents.

Mayor Jim Fouts denied the request, stating that Marshall’s display was meant to purposefully interfere with the “prayer station” and could lead to disruption. He remarked that FFRF seeks to remove God from public life and he would not allow Marshall, whom he called a “designated hitter” for the organization, to succeed in the group’s efforts in his city.

“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,” Fouts wrote. “The City of Warren cannot allow this.”

Following the denial, Marshall asserted that Fouts’ refusal was a violation of his right to free speech, and denied that FFRF had anything to do with his request for the “reason station.” FFRF, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) then banded to file a federal lawsuit against the city over the matter.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Hluchaniuk approved a settlement with Warren officials to allow Marshall to have the display. As part of the agreement, the city will pay $100,000 in legal fees to the ACLU to cover expenses associated withe lawsuit.

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“The reason station will be allowed to operate on terms not less favorable than the terms granted to the prayer station,” the settlement reads.

“This settlement serves as a reminder that government officials have no business deciding which religious messages can and cannot be allowed into our public spaces,” Dan Korobkin, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement. “The First Amendment guarantees us all the right to speak freely about our beliefs—or lack thereof.”

A statement has not yet been released by the city.

This is not the first time that Marshall has tussled with Fouts in the courts. In 2011, he and FFRF sued the City of Warren for denying his request to place a Winter Solstice sign near an outdoor nativity scene.

“There are no Gods, no devils, no angels, no Heaven or Hell,” the sign was to read. “There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

The federal courts ruled in favor of the city, noting that the majority of the city’s Christmas scenery was secular in nature anyway.


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  • Badkey

    Cool! Freedom of religion, after all!!!

    • RSK

      I understand the denial of messages that are not positive and attempt to tear down, disrespect, and otherwise incite negativity. If the messages they desire had ANY positive, redeeming quality, then perhaps consideration would be appropriate.

      I also understand the difficulty of “policing” such, but common sense and respect seem to missing and their intent actually devoid of reason.

  • OCRazor

    How about no displays in City Hall? Another elected official wasting taxpayer time and money. Nice job Jim.

    • Paul Hiett

      That would be the ideal solution.

  • Mark Moore

    Isn’t this going to trigger the end times? Aren’t we all going to be engulfed in a sea of fire for this blasphemy? Where is God when you need some infidel smited? Somebody better start praying right now and get God on the stick – so to speak.

    • Lark62

      Is this real or somebody trying to parody christians? I really can’t tell.

      • Disqusdmnj

        I’m going with snark. Very good snark.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/EyrtheFyre Regina Forbes

    What is with the “prayer stations” to begin with?!
    I prayer where I want, when I want, and how I want…I don’t need a designated area to do that!

    • dark477

      it’s so you don’t get in anyone’s way

      • Noëlle Babinski

        boo-hoo, get over it Dark.
        If you don’t like people praying, LOOK AWAY AND WALK AWAY. It’s none of your business what we do or where we do it. 😉

        Remember to practice that “tolerance” and “equality” You preach about, Dark.

        • dark477

          you’re free to pray you just can’t disrupt the activities of others.

        • Lark62

          boo-hoo, get over it Noelle.
          if you don’t like people using reason, LOOK AWAY AND WALK AWAY. It’s none of your business what we do or where we do it. 😉

          Remember to practice that “tolerance” and “equality” You preach about, Noelle.

          There, fixed it for ya.

  • dawnrosanne

    That’s crazy. The only reason the athiests are out there hating on Christians is because they disagree with them. What a waste of money. The athiests have their MO and it is to destroy all remnants of faith in our society. They will never be successful.

    • rwsafari

      So, spreading the “good news” is okay. Spreading another view point is bad. Do you not see any contradiction other than you advocate for one and don’t agree with the other?

      • dawnrosanne

        I have no problem with other people sharing their sincerely held beliefs. Let there be a station for Jews praying, or Muslims praying, etc….but that is not what is going on in this situation. In this situation, the prayer stations were specifically targeted by anti-Christian hate groups like the FFRF whose sole purpose is to tear down symbols of the Christian faith. The FFRF doesn’t want to promote diversity in faith or religious views. They have one goal in mind which is to remove all vestigages of the Christian faith from the public square. That is their goal. They have not “view point” other than hatred of Christians and their beliefs.

        • Paul Hiett

          Except…they didn’t try to remove the Christians, did they? They simply wanted their own space. What is wrong with that? The Christian prayer station gets to to stay, so why are you so upset?

          • Allan Trenholme

            Seriously? She already answered your question in her post you’re replying to, sheesh.

          • MarkSebree

            So, you are saying that she is ignorant about the actual activities and goals of the FFRF then?

          • Allan Trenholme

            In answer to your question… I think she made it very clear why she is upset and I agree with her. The FFRF has one goal in mind; to remove all vestigages of the Christian faith from the public square because of their hatred of Christians and their beliefs. It’s that simple.

          • Lark62

            You are totally and completely wrong, either through unintentional ignorance or willful lying. The FFRF seeks to defend our secular Constitution by making sure OUR government treats all religious viewpoints EQUALLY.

            Christians may be used to special treatment and special favors, but in no way does the equal treatment of other religious viewpoints diminish your rights under the Constitution.

            There is dislike of the special treatment of christianity, but that does not translate to hatred of christians.

            I personally have contempt for the raging hypocrisy where you would deny to others the rights you cherish. I have contempt for the willful distortion of the mission of the FFRF, when a 10 minute perusal of their website would show that they only resist government endorsement and favoritism. There is no objection to religion in public view. You won’t find one single objection to a cross on private property. Even with that I hate neither you nor your religion.

          • Allan Trenholme

            Wow, chill out… all that stuff just because I agreed with what someone wrote here. Have a nice day!

          • Lark62

            I was responding to the second and third sentences of your post, wherein you mistated the mission of the FFRF and accused them of being motivated by animus. I noticed you responded to none of my comments. You neatly deflected the conversation and avoided substantive discussion by attempting to change the focus off your words. Rather typical.

            If you care about facts, check out the FFRF website. Have a great day.

          • Allan Trenholme

            Ok, in plain simple English… my lack of response to your comments is because I am not interested in a long drawn out debate that will get neither of us anywhere. Your words and actions, in my opinion, are the sign of someone looking for just that, no matter what, not to mention, a quick look see at your profile tells me a lot about where you are coming from. From what I have seen and understand so far, nothing good will come of this… no offense but, I guess just don’t care what you agree or disagree on. Typical? Perhaps?

          • Lark62

            No probs. But I’m kind of fond of accuracy and honesty. Read the FFRF website sometime and think about why they would pick the battles they do. The first amendment protects all of us.

        • Rick Paquette

          The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral
          progress has been brought about by persons free from religion. In modern
          times the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of
          the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women’s
          right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for
          the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been
          freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to
          slavery. The Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from
          religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of
          state and church.

        • Lark62

          You are mistaken.

    • Lark62

      Sorry, no. There are churches on every corner and not one single atheist trying to shut one down. Honestly look at the FFRFs activity. It is only the use of government property or government resources or government authority to promote one religious viewpoint that is objected to. There is no problem when all viewpoints get equal treatment.

      Be honest and use your critical thinking skills.

    • Rick Paquette

      The purposes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., as stated
      in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional principle of
      separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters
      relating to nontheism.

  • Brian Fisher

    I sat in on a lecture by the American Atheist President recently and he had some revealing things to say. They want to fight, they want the media attention that these incidents cause. They want to destroy the uniqueness of Christianity by equating it to other religions. They see any religious person as lost and in need of help, yet they “help” by trying to make us feel stupid and wrong for our beliefs. We have to love them and be patient with them. Jesus ransomed me when I didn’t believe in Him, and He loves them just as much.

    • Disqusdmnj

      I don’t think it’s “destroying” it’s uniqueness, it’s making Christianity play on the same field as Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Humanism, etc… so that none get preferential treatment. That’s the “equating”. If you allow one to be present on communal, township property – where people of all religions and none pay taxes to keep the township alive – you have to allow them all. I know lots of people here may not agree with it, but it is our law.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Christianity is good, but atheism is meaningless and blasphemous. Atheism does not need a display. Everyone needs Christian prayers but no one needs atheism.

    • Paul Hiett

      Ah yes, as long as your religious viewpoint is the only one presented, then everything is just fine, right?

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Yes, all of you need Christianity. Americans became bad after losing Christianity.

        • MarkSebree

          America has never lost its Christianity. It is the most religious industrial nation on the planet. Nearly 80% of Americans are Christian. That includes every one of the thousands of denominations followed in this country.

          What is happening is that people who work for the government are being held accountable to the law and the US Constitution. They are required to remain neutral about religion when they are working or representing the government. That includes judges, county clerks, public school teachers, and politicians, among others.

          All that is happening is that Christianity is losing its “privileged” and “unquestioned” position, and being told that it must play on the same field and by the same rules as all other religions, and many people, especially on the far right, object to that. Laws based on religious belief are being challenged. Public schools are being told that they cannot show favoritism towards any religion either explicitly or implicitly. Discrimination of minorities because of the beliefs of someone in power are being challenged through civil rights laws.

          And America is improving because of this.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            America is morally collapsing draging all secular nations with her. Supporters of abnormal immorality should not be counted as Christian.

          • MarkSebree

            You do not get to decide who is and is not a Christian. For that matter, you do not get to decide what is moral and immoral according to other people’s beliefs. Just because they have different interpretations of your mythology than you do and they have different morals than you do does not mean that they are not Christians.

            in my opinion, it is the far-right, hyper-religious who want to turn this country into a theonomy or a theocracy who are dragging the USA down. They are against science, against education, and against equality. They want to throw out all the advance that we have made politically, socially, and scientifically over the last 150+ years, and revert our country into a second or third world nation.

            Nobody except you is subject to your beliefs, and nobody except you is required to live by your antiquated “morals”.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            The Holy Bible decides and declares who is Christian. Today’s America’s main religion is filthy nudist hedonism that is deadly destructive to children and its Caesar is the godless mass. Observe. Americans were a lot smarter and observant decades ago. I think political correctness and liberals’ education made you guys deniers of facts. “Far-right, hyper-religious” Christians in America are the only hope for your nation because they are the only ones who will rescue the babies and live for righteousness as any normal humans should.

          • MarkSebree

            You are claiming that you get to decide, however. Different denominations have different interpretations of the Bible, and you are acting like your interpretation is the only correct one.

            America does not have any religion. If you think that hedonism and/or nudity is “filthy, that is just your opinion. That does not mean that you get to decide for everyone else.

            I will agree that Americans were a lot better educated several decades ago. The biggest reason for the dumbing down of American education is the corporations and the far right who what to destroy the public educations system. People who are ignorant are more easily controlled, and tend to be more religious. Getting rid of broad-based, fact-based, secular education that fosters knowledge of history, science, math, as well as how to think and reason are against both their best interests. That is why corporations, the overly religious, and the far right want to destroy teachers unions that give teachers better voice, reduce teacher’s pay to discourage many potentially excellent teachers from entering the field, and vouchers to take money away from public schools who teach everyone and give it to religious schools who are not accountable for that money.

            As an example of this, look how Gov. Scott Walker has changed the mission statement for the Wisconsin University system. The mission statement included statements such as “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth”, “public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition” and “serve and stimulate society.” These were known as the “Wisconsin Idea”. Scott Walker removed those statements and replaced them with the idea that the purpose of higher education is “to meet the state’s workforce needs.”

            Far right, hyper-religious Christians want to destroy this country, based on their positions, statements, and actions. They are not the hope of this country or any other. They hold us back. Your version of “righteousness” is very, very wrong for most people. It has been liberal ideas and ideals that have consistently moved this country forward ever since the initial founding of this country. The US Constitution is a secular, liberal document. The idea of everyone getting a voice and there being no aristocracy was a liberal idea. The ideas that women get to vote, serve as elected officials, and serve in the military are liberal ideas. The emancipation of slaves was a liberal idea, as were the ideas that blacks have equal rights under the law, and have the right to vote. The idea that there should be no discrimination of people of different and no religion is a liberal idea. The idea that gays deserve the same right to marry the consenting, unrelated adult of their choice, and that they should not be denied a job, housing, or equal rights just because they are gay is a liberal idea. And in every case for each of these ideas where our country as tried to move forward, it has been the far-right, extremely religious who have held us back.

            Your positions on abortion doom women and their children because you refuse to let them make the best decisions for themselves about their lives, education, family, family planning, career, and pretty much everything else. Your opinion shows that you do not respect their right or their lives, and think that you can impose your retrogressive ideas onto them. You have no problem destroying women as long as she can be forced to endure an unwanted and possibly dangerous pregnancy.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            What the Holy Bible teaches is clear and correct, and most denominations agree in major doctrines. It’s futile for you to try to adjust Christianity into your particular godless culture and ideology. You need to repent of your sins to get saved.

          • Lark62

            Nicely said.

    • Lark62

      What despair would that be. I have a beautiful family and a beautiful life. I just don’t acknowledge iron age myths. Life is fine.

      • Disqusdmnj

        Apparently the “despair” of understanding the world around us, being OK with unanswered questions, not having to follow rules written by people who thought the Sun revolved around the Earth, being accepting of those who are different from us *and* protecting their rights as fellow citizens, knowing that prayer doesn’t work by actions do… oh, and Sunday’s to ourselves! 😉

        • Grace Kim Kwon

          Christians rescue everyone with the life-giving message and charity, but you guys only polluted the Planet Earth and young people.

          • Disqusdmnj

            Right… so all the charitable donations I make throughout the year and time I spend volunteering in my community is “pollution”?

            “Young people” aren’t being polluted, they’re being educated, and they’re tired of hearing being gay is a sin, and that homosexuals are an abomination, and that the Earth is 6,000 years old. That’s why they’re leaving the churches, they no longer believe your lies.

            What you have is your belief, and you can have that wherever you want. We just want it out of government, as the Founding Fathers intended.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Right, because you support infanticide and immorality, nothing you do can erase your sins. You need Christianity. You tamed young people to love immorality and that’s why the planet is melting away. Founding Fathers were Christian or Christian-educated. The Western Civilization has no literacy or civility apart from the Christian religion. Atheism only killed and destroyed and polluted. You need the Christian truth for life but no one needs the harmful atheism.

          • Disqusdmnj

            Wow, Grace. That is some of the most ignorant thoughts I’ve ever heard. Congratulations.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            The Founders had no idea you’d be this blasphemous and abnormally immoral; they thought good Americans would always stay Christian or Chrisnianish.

          • Disqusdmnj

            Grace, since there are no gods, there’s no such thing as blasphemy, either. Since you know so much, though, I’d love to know how I’m “abnormally immoral”. Do tell!

            Also, it must be awesome knowing what the Founding Fathers *thought*, even when they never put it into writing! What was Adam’s favorite color? Did Jefferson prefer red or white wine? Did Madison like his steaks medium-rare, or well-done? What were Washington’s thoughts on crop rotation?

            Since you don’t know the answers to those questions, let’s reveal what the Founding Fathers *DID* think:

            John Adams: “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” (Treaty of Tripoli, 1797)

            Thomas Jefferson: “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.” (Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814)

            James Madison: “The civil government … functions with complete success … by the total separation of the Church from the State.” (Writings, 8:432, 1819)

            George Washington: “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” (Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789)

            And even our early citizenry were vehemently against establishing a national religion, since that’s why they wanted to leave England and its monarchy and national church. Here’s a petition of a group of citizens of Chesterfield County, Va., to the state assembly, Nov. 14, 1785: “Let Jews, Mehometans (Muslims) and Christians of every denomination enjoy religious liberty…thrust them not out now by establishing the Christian religion lest thereby we become our own enemys and weaken this infant state. It is mens labour in our Manufactories, their services by sea and land that aggrandize our Country and not their creeds. Chain your citizens to the state by their Interest. Let Jews, Mehometans, and Christians of every denomination find their advantage in living under your laws.”

            Shame you won’t adjust your thinking to new facts, though, isn’t it?

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            There is God and you need to repent of your unbelief to get saved. Because America lost Christianity, it is downright immoral today. The Founders were great only because they were Christian-educated. America has only a moral chaos when it has no Christuianity.

        • Lark62

          Deep down they are actually jealous.

          • Disqusdmnj

            Misery loves miserable company.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        You atheists support infanticide and sexual immorality. Your “beautiful” life is based on bloodshed and corruption. You brainwash people to hate what is good and right. There is Judgment Day. No peace to villains.

        • Disqusdmnj

          Um, ever heard of the Crusades?

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Yes. Secular West is so wimpy and girlish, you will lose your own territory this time if you guys keep being stupid. One should be happy not to have the likes of you as descendants.

          • Disqusdmnj

            How very Christian of you to say. Feel the love. You must be a joy to be around.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Mankind always had wars; the Church rescued billions. Humanism, Darwinism, and Atheism are the #1 killer for all time everywhere. Everyone expects Christians to be truthful and loving, but no one expects anything true or good from the atheists. You need to repent of your sins so that you will be saved.

          • Lark62

            Christian love, compassion, fairness and honesty. Get it here folks. (Antacids are extra)

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            You need to repent of your unbelief, ingratitude, and godlessness to get saved from yourself and from your sins’ eternal consequences.

          • Disqusdmnj

            You’re a hoot, Grace, with all your erroneous, unfounded “facts”.

            Ironically named, however.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            It is a fact. American secularists should learn the world history properly. You’ve been deceived by the liberals’ lies.

          • Disqusdmnj

            We do know world history. That’s why we’re secularists. ; )

          • Lark62

            I’m beginning to think she’s a kid with no exposure to the world, filled full of scary bogeyman stories by so called christians. There is nothing original or thoughtful in these rants.

            Grace, the world is a beautiful place, full of many varieties of people, most of whom are kind and decent. The realities of science and discovery are breathtaking. I hope you can see it for what it is, free of the distortions that have been taught to you.

          • Disqusdmnj

            Or even worse – and more likely – an adult with no exposure to the world.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            You are saying that while killing the unborns and supporting abnormal immorality. That’s why you guys are being enslaved by the 1%. There is Judgment Day coming and the planetary surface will be wiped out clean. Christianity alone offers you the hope of being rescued from your own ignorance. Read I and II Peter.

          • Lark62

            ?? Um, the barbarian invasions came after the fall of Rome and centuries before the first crusade. Nice try

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Wrong. The Christian Europe defeated the major invaders after. Invasions were multiple.

          • Lark62

            Then list the invasions. All the sources I find put barbarian invasions, also called migration period, between about 300 and 700, with other invasions like vikings going through 1000.

            Which inavasions of “pagan barbarians” are you speaking of?

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Don’t forget the Mongols( 13th century) and the Muslims( mainly till 15th century). Christianity has taught all mankind salvation and morality and civility; Atheism comitted atrocities and genocide including billions of unborn babies and countless millions of believers because suicide is its purpose of existence, nothing of life.

          • Disqusdmnj

            “… suicide is its purpose of existence, nothing of life”

            Dumbest. Statement. Ever.

        • Lark62

          I don’t support infanticide. I don’t support matricide – causing death to a person by refusing her a medically necessary abortion. And a Catholic spokesman advocated this week that abortion should be denied even if the fetus is not viable and the mother will die too. That is a long way from pro life.

          I don’t support the conservative attempts to cut back on public education, accessible health care, and children with food.

          Pull the log out of your own eye and value the life of those people here and breathing. Look past your obsession with non viable cells.

          If you cared about preventing abortion you would be demanding the only things proven to reduce the number of abortions -effective contraception; thorough, timely and accurate education; and social safety nets.

          I value life. That is why I want every child to be born wanted by parents with the physical, financial and emotional resources to care for that child. That is pro life.

          Corruption and bloodshed are the calling cards of religion.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Abortion is infanticide which is a worse crime than the Holocaust.

  • RSK

    I understand the denial of messages that are not positive and attempt to tear down, disrespect, and otherwise incite negativity. If the messages they desire had ANY positive, redeeming quality, then perhaps consideration would be appropriate.