Along with two atheist-aligned groups, the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is mounting a court case against the Republican mayor of Warren, Mich. as of yesterday. The ACLU is upset because the mayor banned an organization of nonbelievers from setting up a booth close by one run by prayer group in the chamber of the town’s city hall building.
Mayor Jim Fouts objected to the atheists’ “reason station” on the grounds of their hostility towards prayers. Fouts also tied irreligionists to Nazis before comparing them unfavorably to the Klu Klux Klan.
“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 Klu Klux Klan station,” Fouts stated to the Associated Press earlier this week. “I cannot accept or will not allow a group that is disparaging of another group to have a station here.”
Throughout Obama’s presidency, Fouts has allowed the spiritual gathering to run a booth in city hall where they distribute pamphlets and offer supplications to God to visitors. Yet he used his mayoral authority to deny Douglas Marshall’s appeal to counter with a “reason station” where Marshall and other nonbelievers could instead attempt to have philosophical discourses with passersby.
“They don’t walk up to people,” Fouts said to the AP, clarifying how the prayer gathering conducts its affairs from its city hall position. “They are just there if someone wishes to seek solace or guidance from them. The atheist station does not serve that purpose. It will not contribute to community values or helping an individual out.”
Fouts communicated to Marshall that his atheist station would not be allowed in light of the fact that his perceived goal is “an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion,” as per an ACLU proclamation.
The ACLU, alongside Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, are suing the smalltown mayor for not permitting all organizations to set up stations on city held property.
“Once the government opens public space for use by private groups, it cannot pick and choose who can use the space based on the content of their message or whether public officials agree with that message,” read a press release from Dan Korobkin, deputy legal director of ACLU of Michigan.