FFRF member Douglas Marshall is suing the City of Warren, Mich., after his request to install a “reason station” in the atrium of City Hall was rejected.
The City allows a local church group to run a prayer station in which volunteers distribute religious pamphlets, offer to pray with passersby, and discuss their religious beliefs with people who approach the station.
In April 2014, Marshall submitted an application to city officials to reserve space in the atrium for his “reason station” two days a week. Marshall wished to set up a station that is similar in size, structure and function to the prayer station – a folding table and chairs with literature on display and available to the public – except that his station will offer information and opportunities for discussion from a non-religious perspective. The station would be operated by Mr. Marshall and other volunteers. Less than two weeks after it was submitted, Marshall’s application was rejected by Warren Mayor James Fouts because Marshall’s belief system “is not a religion.”
Marshall is asking the court to declare the City’s denial of his request to reserve and use the atrium space a violation of his First Amendment rights and to enter preliminary and permanent injunctions requiring the City to allow the reason station.
Mr. Marshall is represented by attorneys from FFRF, Americans United and the ACLU. The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Michigan on July 23, 2014. The case (No. 14-CV-12872) has been assigned to Judge Marianne Battani.
On November 13, 2014, in a ruling from the bench, Judge Battani denied the City of Warren’s Motion for Summary Judgment and the Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The parties are currently in discovery.