An atheist is suing the city of Warren for prohibiting him from setting up a “reason station” in the atrium of City Hall alongside a “prayer station” that has operated since 2009.
Douglas Marshall filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, saying Mayor Jim Fouts and the city violated his First Amendment rights by endorsing “traditional religious beliefs over atheistic beliefs.”
Mayor Fouts has allowed a religious group to operate a “prayer station,” where pamphlets are distributed and people come to pray.
Fouts maintains that Marshall, a Freedom From Religion member, intends to instigate residents, while the “prayer station” is meant to be a peaceful reprieve.
“The city has certain values that I don’t believe are in general agreement with having an atheist station, nor in general agreement with having a Nazi station or Ku Klux Klan station,” Fouts told the Associated Press. “I cannot accept or will not allow a group that is disparaging of another group to have a station here.”
According to the lawsuit, “Defendants’ decision made Mr. Marshall feel unwelcome at the Civic Center, an outsider in the community, a second-class citizen in Warren, and a disfavored member of a religious minority group. Mr. Marshall further objects to his tax payments supporting the operation and maintenance of a facility that Defendants control in a discriminatory manner that advances traditional religious beliefs over atheistic beliefs.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.