Warren, Michigan is not a city with complete separation of church and state as is evident at city hall. As reported by WJBK Fox 2 News, the building is home to a day of prayer, a Ramadan display, a Nativity scene, and a prayer station, all backed by Warren Mayor Jim Fouts. “I will continue to support all groups regardless of race or religion but I will not support a group which denigrates those groups,” said Fouts.
Fouts was referring to the Freedom From Religion group member and atheist Douglas Marshall. Marshall filed a request to set up a “reason station” inside the Warren city hall atrium when he learned a prayer station existed. Marshall told WJBK, “I object to my tax dollar being used for a church to proselytize…the public space is not a location which religion should be practiced.”
According to the Detroit Free Press , Marshall planned to use the reason station “to promote free thought, use of reason and logic and separation of church and state.” The proposed station would also display the Thomas Jefferson quote, "Question with boldness even the existence of God." Marshall’s Civic Center Facilities Rental Application requested a space in city hall for one year starting on May 1, coincidentally the National Day of Prayer.
Apparently Fouts and Marshall have a history of going head-to-head over religious displays so the Freedom From Religion member wasn’t surprised when the mayor denied his request. The Detroit Free Press notes that Fouts wrote Marshall a denial letter (which Marshall said he has yet to receive), which expressed, “Freedom From Religion is not a religion, has no tenets and no congregation.” Fouts continued in the letter writing, “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.”
Marshall feels that Mayor Fouts is forgetting about the other rights granted in the First Amendment saying, “The mayor is restricting my freedom of speech. He is allowing religious speech, but not non-religious speech." Marshall plans to consult counsel and determine what options are available.