WARREN, Mich. — A mayor in Michigan states that he will be countering an atheist booth that will be set up near a prayer station at city hall by distributing “In God We Trust” posters through his office.
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.
Last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Hluchaniuk approved a settlement with Warren officials to allow Marshall to have the display, which will reportedly be next to the prayer station as requested.
Now, Mayor Fouts states that he will make “In God We Trust” posters available for free at city hall in part because of the reason station now being permitted.
“Obviously, I was concerned about the court order that forced the city of Warren to have a reason station within our City Hall atrium,” Fouts told C&G. “The prayer station had been functioning for years without any problems or any controversy. They’re now allowed to have an atheist station under the euphemistic guise of a reason station.”
While Fouts and other outlets describe the arrangement as a court order, the ACLU asserted in a press release last month that there was a settlement between attorneys for both parties, which was then approved by the court.
“In the settlement, city officials reversed course and agreed to provide the ‘reason station’ with full, equal access to the building,” it said.
Regardless, Fouts noted that “In God We Trust” has been the national motto since the 1950’s and that his current effort is part of a wider endeavor launched by In God We Trust America out of California.
“Promoting patriotism by encouraging elected officials to legally display our national motto ‘In God We Trust’ in every city and county chamber in America keep God’s name in America and show a commitment to the values our county was founded upon,” is the organization’s mission according to its website.
“I think the city of Warren will become the most prominent and the most visible and maybe the largest city to do this,” Fouts stated. “I’m not alone in doing this.”