Dawsey: Mayor Fouts' Irrational Stance Against Atheists
Sadly many religious nut jobs think "freedom of religion" means they have the right to use government to force their religion on the rest of us.
If you ask me the government should keep completely out of the religion issue. Religion is something that belongs in the private sector not government.
Dawsey: Mayor Fouts' Irrational Stance Against Atheists
Darrell Dawsey email@example.com
April 17th, 2014, 11:26 PM
Nobody ever accused Warren Mayor Jim Fouts of being a man of reason — and after his latest stunt, nobody will anytime soon.
Warren’s scandal-scented mayor recently shot down a local atheist’s application to establish a “reason station” inside Warren City Hall for one year, claiming that the Warren man’s table would somehow be an unfair imposition on a “prayer station” that’s already located in the building.
In his letter, Fouts said Freedom From Religion is not a religion, has no tenets and no congregation.
“To my way of thinking, your group is strictly an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion. The City of Warren cannot allow this,” he wrote, underlining the last sentence.
“Also, I believe it is group’s intention to disrupt those who participate in the Prayer Station which would also be a violation of the freedom of religion amendment. For these reasons, I cannot approve of your request,” he wrote.
Now, I’m sure that between alleged threats to pulverize opponents with baseball bats and cozy getaways with attractive staffers, Fouts considers himself to be quite the pious man.
But brazen thought they may be, Fouts’ warped personal views are exactly what should not be at issue.
So what if he doesn’t like atheist Warren resident Douglas Marshall or Marshall’s Freedom from Religion organization? So what if Fouts wants to believe in gods or devils or faeries at the bottom of a well?
Marshall has every constitutional right to be able to talk peacefully in a public place about the value of reason, free thought and a rational, non-religious approach to understanding our world.
Disagreement is not inherently disruptive. Nothing about the dissemination of non-religious pamphlets poses a threat to staffers at a prayer station.
And how is it that, in a secular country that explicitly eschews state religion, the presence of a “prayer station” in a City Hall raises fewer constitutional concerns than a secular group’s makeshift kiosk?
Chorus of Persecution
Fouts’ stance echoes a growing chorus among many religious proponents that suggests that they are increasingly being “persecuted” for their beliefs. They see enemies to their faith any and every where reason and enlightened inquiry may be found, from a schoolgirl’s love of the woolly mammoth to the TV show Cosmos. Reason is anathema, science the dark witchcraft of apostates. Those who doubt, who pose uncomfortable challenges to ancient fables, are foes to be vanquished rather than engaged.
Of course, this whole persecution complex has no basis in reality. First off, churches, synagogues and mosques continue to rake in billions of dollars a year in this country and hold significant sway over every political office from town dog catcher to the White House. Meanwhile, although the number of Americans turning their backs on their childhood faiths is indeed growing, avowed atheists make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, according to researchers.
A suburb teeming with churches, Warren needs a “prayer station” in City Hall like Fouts needs a Louisville Slugger. Fighting this straw man is not only unnecessary but a clear detriment to what should be cherished principles: free speech and the separation of church and state.
Just as bad is Fouts’ claim that the Warren government allows the prayer station in an effort not to “restrict this right for any religion to use the atrium.” In other words, he using the guise of “religious tolerance” to justify his blatantly un-American intolerance. It’s like agreeing to extend free speech to everyone who believes in leprechauns — regardless of whether they think those leprechauns red or green or turquoise — but attempting to shush anybody who dares question whether leprechauns are real to begin with.
I don’t know what Fouts thinks he protects with such an anti-democratic gesture, but it sure isn’t freedom.
Freedom of religion? Yes. Freedom from religion? No.
By Charlene Sakoda
Warren, Michigan is not a city with complete separation of church and state as is evident at city hall. As reported by WJBK Fox 2 News, the building is home to a day of prayer, a Ramadan display, a Nativity scene, and a prayer station, all backed by Warren Mayor Jim Fouts. “I will continue to support all groups regardless of race or religion but I will not support a group which denigrates those groups,” said Fouts.
Fouts was referring to the Freedom From Religion group member and atheist Douglas Marshall. Marshall filed a request to set up a “reason station” inside the Warren city hall atrium when he learned a prayer station existed. Marshall told WJBK, “I object to my tax dollar being used for a church to proselytize…the public space is not a location which religion should be practiced.”
According to the Detroit Free Press , Marshall planned to use the reason station “to promote free thought, use of reason and logic and separation of church and state.” The proposed station would also display the Thomas Jefferson quote, "Question with boldness even the existence of God." Marshall’s Civic Center Facilities Rental Application requested a space in city hall for one year starting on May 1, coincidentally the National Day of Prayer.
Apparently Fouts and Marshall have a history of going head-to-head over religious displays so the Freedom From Religion member wasn’t surprised when the mayor denied his request. The Detroit Free Press notes that Fouts wrote Marshall a denial letter (which Marshall said he has yet to receive), which expressed, “Freedom From Religion is not a religion, has no tenets and no congregation.” Fouts continued in the letter writing, “To my way of thinking, your group is strictly an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion. The City of Warren cannot allow this.”
Marshall feels that Mayor Fouts is forgetting about the other rights granted in the First Amendment saying, “The mayor is restricting my freedom of speech. He is allowing religious speech, but not non-religious speech." Marshall plans to consult counsel and determine what options are available.
Video and more info: WJBK, Detroit Free Press
Atheists Blocked From Erecting 'Reason Display' Next to 'Prayer Station' By Mich. Mayor
By Katherine Weber , Christian Post Reporter
April 17, 2014|10:36 pm
Mayor Jim Fouts of Warren, Mich., recently denied an atheist's request to set up a "Reason Station" next to the "Prayer Station" in City Hall, saying the display would be disruptive.
When Douglas Marshall, a resident of Warren and a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation [FFRF], learned that a "Prayer Station" had been set up in the atrium in City Hall, he applied to have a "Reason Station" set up next to the "Prayer Station" for one year, beginning May 1. The "Reason Station" would have reportedly included literature from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a sign quoting Thomas Jefferson that read: "Question with boldness even the existence of God."
Marshall received a letter from Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, who told the FFRF member that because atheism is not defined as a religion, it is not protected under the First Amendment.
"To my way of thinking, your group is strictly an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion," Fouts wrote, adding in underlined print: "The City of Warren cannot allow this."
"Also, I believe it is group's intention to disrupt those who participate in the Prayer Station which would also be a violation of the freedom of religion amendment," he added. "For these reasons, I cannot approve of your request."
Marshall has spoken out against Fouts' decision, saying the mayor is only choosing to reference one part of the First Amendment, failing to allow both freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
"The mayor is restricting my freedom of speech. He is allowing religious speech, but not non-religious speech," Marshall told WJBK-TV. The FFRF member reiterated to the Detroit Free Press that before he could speak further on his next move, he'd have to get counsel to see what his options are.
Last year, a federal appeals court ruled Fouts did not violate free speech rights when he denied the FFRF permission to add their own sign to the city's holiday display. The sign would have said, in part, that religion is but "myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." Fouts denied the request, arguing that the purpose of the sign was to attack religion.