Atheist Gets Approval to Set Up a 'Reason Station' Inside a City Hall in Michigan
By Christina Hall
A year after being denied an application to have a "reason station" inside Warren City Hall, atheist Douglas Marshall set up the station for the first time today thanks to a federal court victory in February.
His station -- a table with literature, a sign on an easel and chairs for himself and two volunteers -- was situated in the atrium in front of the library. Paces away, on the other side of the library entrance, stood a prayer station that has been allowed in City Hall since 2009.
Marshall, 69, of Warren said he was happy he could establish the reason station 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
"I feel it's appropriate that an alternative is being offered," Marshall said.
He sued the city and Fouts last summer after his request to set up the reason station was denied. Marshall said the table would promote free thought, use of reason and logic and separation of church and state.
Fouts had said he was concerned the table would discourage the practice of religion and disrupt the prayer station in violation of the constitutional right to freedom of religion. The prayer station operates 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and noon-3 p.m. Wednesdays, according to a volunteer.
Fouts also questioned Marshall's group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which contested the prayer station, an annual day of prayer at city hall and a nativity scene on city property.
In February, a federal judge ordered the city to allow Marshall to set up the station, similar to the one that his religious counterparts have. He also ordered the city to pay the American Civil Liberties Union, which was among the groups to file the lawsuit on Marshall's behalf, $100,000 for costs and attorney fees.
Marshall said four people stopped by the reason station in about the first hour, most of them curious, and one woman took a piece of literature. He said he is leaving it up to those who approach to ask questions.
"We're not here to proselytize," he said.
Linda Jackson, 74, of Warren stopped at the prayer station to pray. She hadn't stopped by the reason station, but said "it's a public place. I guess all are welcome, whether they believe Jesus is the reason or they don't."
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