A federal judge ruled in favor of First Amendment rights groups who sued a Michigan city and its mayor for not allowing a local man to place a "reason station" next to a "prayer station" in their city hall.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Hluchaniuk ordered officials from Warren, Michigan, to allow the reason station.
"The reason station will be allowed to operate on terms not less favorable than the terms granted to the prayer station," said Hluchaniuk in his closing statement.
The judge also ordered the City of Warren to pay the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) $100,000 for court costs and attorney fees.
Douglas Marshall, a resident of Warren, Michigan, said he asked Mayor James Fouts permission to build his reason station to show his belief in atheism as an alternative to organized religion.
Marshall said he wanted the same opportunity given to religious groups to talk to those walking past the table about atheism and other secular belief systems.
Warren City Hall allows the display of an annual nativity scene, a prayer station and a day of prayer because the Constitution allows for the right to freedom of religion, Fouts said.
While City Hall is open to all religions, Fouts said he refused the request because Marshall's group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, was not affiliated with an actual religion.
"To my way of thinking, (Marshall’s) 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," Fouts said in a statement.
Lawyers representing Marshall said they think Fouts and the City of Warren oppressed Marshall’s free will by not allowing him to express his life philosophy.
"The First Amendment guarantees us all the right to speak freely about our beliefs — or lack thereof,” said Dan Korobkin, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Michigan.