WARREN, Mich. — A mayor in Michigan has denied the request of an atheist activist to erect a ‘reason station’ near an existing ‘prayer station’ at city hall.
Warren resident and member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) Douglas Marshall recently submitted a request 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.”
“I believe it is this group’s intention to disrupt those who participate in the prayer station, which would also be a violation of the freedom of religion amendment,” he continued. “For these reasons, I cannot approve of your request.”
Marshall told the Detroit News that he has complained about the presence of the “prayer station” in the past.
“I have complained to the mayor that I thought it was a violation of the Constitution for the city to allow public property to be used by a church to proselytize their religion,” he said.
He now asserts that Fouts refusal is a violation of his right to free speech, and denies that FFRF had anything to do with his request for the “reason station.”
However, this is not the first time that Marshall has tussled with Fouts. 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.
Marshall told reporters this week that in light of Fout’s recent denial he will “have to get counsel and determine what my options are.” But Foust says he thinks he knows what Marshall is up to.
“He can say he’s independent of the foundation, but he is a front for the foundation. He is a spokesperson for the foundation, a symbol of the foundation, and at the minimum, he is a shill for the foundation,” Fouts contended. “He wants a reason station as a protest against the prayer station.”