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Church State Issues

FFRF to Mayor: Stop censoring sign or be sued

Dec 21, 2011

December 20, 2011

An attorney on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a demand letter to Mayor James R. Fouts, of Warren, Mich., giving him until 10 a.m. Wednesday to agree to place an “equal time” Winter Solstice sign in his city hall atrium.

Attorney Danielle Hessell, with Butzel Long in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., sent the demand letter on behalf of local complainant Douglas Marshall and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Marshall is one of more than 500 FFRF members in Michigan. He has made numerous requests, in writing and in person, to receive permission to place the Winter Solstice display next to a nativity scene in city hall and was told Friday he could not.

FFRF's Winter Solstice sign reads:

"At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
The other side says:
“Keep State & Church Separate.”
FFRF first complained more than a year ago about the display. In response, Fouts replied:

"All religions are welcome to celebrate their religions seasons with a display in city hall. “ He denied that his actions in allowing the crèche to be displayed endorsed Christianity:

“If we were doing this, other religions would not be allowed to display their religious holy seasons in our atrium. However, they have been allowed and will be allowed."

Hassell noted that the City Council passed a June 22, 20110 resolution “re-affirming the American values of freedom, equality and justice,” including affirming that no one would be discriminated against because of religion.

“As you know, it is unlawful for the City of Warren to maintain, erect, or host a holiday display that consists solely of a nativity scene, thus singling out, showing preference for, and endorsing one religion,” Hessell added.

“To date, the mayor has engaged in flagrant viewpoint censorship. As the city’s top government official, he has created a public forum for religion and only for religion. We hope reason will prevail, but if he does not permit our member to place the Winter Solstice display in the atrium tomorrow, we are planning to sue Mr. Fouts in federal court.”