A Michigan mayor compared atheists to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan to defend his decision to exclude secular groups from setting up a “reason station” alongside a “prayer station” on public property, reported the Detroit Free Press.
The American Civil Liberties Union and two secular groups have sued the city of Warren and Mayor Jim Fouts on behalf of an atheist resident who asked to set up the booth in a City Hall atrium.
Fouts has allowed a local Christian church group to hand out religious materials and pray with visitors at City Hall since 2009.
But he rejected a proposal by Freedom From Religion member Douglas Marshall to discuss atheism and free thinking alongside the Christian activists.
The federal lawsuit claims Fouts violated Marshall’s First Amendment rights and seeks a court order allowing him to set up the reason station, along with unspecified damages.
“Defendants have favored and are favoring religion over nonreligion, and religious belief over disbelief, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” the suit argues.
Fouts said the lawsuit was part of a “continuing saga by a group of people who, in my opinion, promote conflict rather than resolution and understanding.”
The mayor said Marshall intended the reason station to stand in opposition to the prayer station, and he said that was disparaging and antagonistic to the prayer group.
"The city has certain values that I don't believe are in general agreement with having an atheist station, nor in general agreement with having a Nazi station or Ku Klux Klan station," Fouts said. "I cannot accept or will not allow a group that is disparaging of another group to have a station here."
[Image: Father leading his son in prayer to receive Jesus via Shutterstock]