A couple years ago the Freedom From Religion Foundation lost a lawsuit against the city of Warren, Michigan after being denied the right to put up an anti-religious display next to a nativity scene. Now the city is doing it again, allowing a prayer booth at city hall but refusing a local resident the right to have a booth.
A resident’s request to put up a display table touting reason over religion in the atrium of city hall has been denied.
Douglass Marshall said he made the request as a resident of the city, but Mayor James Fouts rejected it, saying Marshall is a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has objected to a nativity scene, the city’s annual Day of Prayer and the prayer station at city hall.
“We can’t put up every display that everybody wants because the atrium would be filled with displays,” Fouts said Wednesday. “I have certain discretionary rights about what I will and will not put up. And I determined that putting up an anti-religious display would serve no useful purpose. It would cause a lot of conflict and consternation.”…
Fouts said the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in his favor in denying permission for the display.
“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 said.
Fouts couldn’t reason his way out of a wet paper bag. No, the court of appeals did not give him that authority, their ruling applied only to the nativity scene. And frankly, that was the FFRF’s fault. They wanted to put up that sign I hate that says “religion is but superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” If they had put up a positive message like Margaret Downey’s tree of knowledge display or the sign the Springfield Freethinkers put up last year, they would likely have won the case.
The other Detroit paper, the Detroit Free Press, has a lot more detail and it actually reveals what Marshall was proposing rather than just calling it an “anti-religious display.” What he wanted to do was set up a reason station near the prayer station, which is entirely legitimate. There’s also more detail on the mayor’s inane letter:
But Fouts in his denial letter, which Marshall had not yet received from the city, indicated that it was his understanding that Marshall was affiliated with Freedom From Religion, which has unsuccessfully contested a nativity scene on city property, the prayer station and annual day of prayer at city hall.
Fouts said these events are allowed because of the right to freedom of religion and that “we cannot and will not restrict this right for any religion to use the atrium, as long as the activity is open to all religions.”
“It seems to me that the mayor allows free speech in the atrium as long as he agrees with the speech,” Marshall said. “If he doesn’t, he denies speech he doesn’t agree with in the atrium.”
In his letter, Fouts said Freedom From Religion is not a religion, has no tenets and no congregation.
“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. The City of Warren cannot allow this,” he wrote, underlining the last sentence.
“Also, I believe it is group’s intention to disrupt those who participate in the Prayer Station which would also be a violation of the freedom of religion amendment. For these reasons, I cannot approve of your request,” he wrote.
All bullshit, of course, and completely irrelevant as well. It is entirely appropriate, if you are going to allow a “prayer station” that you also allow a station where people will actually help you talk through your problems, reach a decision and make a plan of action to solve them. That’s actually doing something that might have a positive effect, as opposed to pointless prayers. Having that station does not deprive anyone else of their own. They didn’t demand that the prayer station be removed.
I see another lawsuit coming.