Michigan city makes way for an atheist anti-prayer table in City Hall

An atheist group will get a spot in a Michigan city's City Hall beginning next month to push its anti-prayer agenda.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation won the right to set up a table in February after a federal judge fined Warren and the mayor $100,000.

The group’s Douglas Marshall told the Detroit News he wants to set up a “reason station” to counter a Christian “prayer station” that’s been using Warren’s City Hall for six years.

“What will be there is an alternative to the prayer station, which promotes Christianity,” Marshall recently told the paper. “I will not be there to covert anybody to atheism.”

He said the foundation will set up the table in early April. Volunteers will be on hand on Tuesdays and Thursdays to hand out atheist literature. They will be there on those days for a few hours.

Mayor Jim Fouts opposed giving the foundation any space because the group is not a religious entity, has no tenets, no place of worship and no congregation.

Last year the American Civil Liberties Union sued Warren and the mayor on behalf of Marshall.

In late February, a judge ordered Warren and Fouts to make room for Marshall and his group. The judge also imposed the $100,000 fine to cover damages, costs and attorney fees incurred by the ACLU.

“This was really a case about treating people equally regardless of whether they have religious beliefs or non-religious beliefs,” ACLU lawyer Dan Korobkin said.

Fouts said the city will pay the fine out of its general fund. He said Marshall’s group had challenged a City Hall Nativity scene, but lost that lawsuit.

MLive.com said Thursday the prayer station is run by the Pentecostal Tabernacle Church of Warren.

Fouts said there’s enough room at City Hall, so the two tables won’t be together.

“I am not happy with the court order, but it is a court order,” Fouts told the News. “It is a victory of freedom of religion and the city of Warren. The Nativity scene is intact and the prayer station is intact.”