Judge says atheists can have 'reason station' in Warren city hall

A federal judge ruled Monday that if a church can have a presence inside of the Warren City Hall, so can an Atheist group. 

Douglas Marshall from the Freedom from Religion Organization had a big problem with combining church and state and felt if he couldn't beat them, he and other atheists would join them. He wanted to set up a 'Reason Station' a few feet away from a church group's 'Prayer Station', but was met with some resistance last summer. 

The ACLU then filed a lawsuit after Mayor Fouts would only allow the prayer station inside the lobby of city hall.

Daniel Korobkin, legal director of the ACLU, calls the judge's decision a victory, saying this shows government officials have no business deciding what religious messages can and cannot be sent in public places. 

"If the mayor wants to have people having these discussions, he has to have a level playing field. He can't slant the discussion in favor of one set of beliefs as opposed to another," says Korobkin. 

Mayor Fouts had fought the same sort of opposition for a holiday nativity scene at city hall just recently. He was allowed to keep that, and now he can keep his church group prayer station, although this time he had to compromise. 

"It's a cautious victory for the city of Warren. A 'Reason Station' will be allowed to be located in the city hall, but it will be separate from the prayer station and they cannot put up an anti-religious sign," Fouts says. 

According to the ACLU, this will be a first for a city hall. 

Marshall says he plans to manage the 'Reason Station' and volunteers will staff it. He's aiming for an April start-up date and, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the believers and non believers will have to co-exist in Warren.
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