City Forced To Allow ‘Reason Station’ Alongside ‘Prayer Station’

Feb 27, 2015

Image credit: creativecommons.org

By Kate Abbey-Lambertz

A Detroit suburb that allows a “prayer station” set up in city hall must also permit an atheist to set up a “reason station,” a federal judge ordered. Warren, Michigan must also pay a $100,000 fine.

Judge Michael Hluchaniuk ruled Monday that Warren resident Douglas Marshall’s proposal to distribute information and engage in discussions on atheism in the atrium of city hall must be approved, and that the city must apply policies equally to both his reason station and an existing prayer station operated by a local church. The $100,000 fine was included in the settlement to pay for attorney fees and damages.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued the city and Mayor Jim Fouts last July after Fouts denied Marshall’s request to set up a reason station. Marshall is a member of the latter group.


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83 comments on “City Forced To Allow ‘Reason Station’ Alongside ‘Prayer Station’

  • This is an interesting development which could well set a precedent; I can imagine it catching on.

    We are naturally curious, and hopefully people will drift across from one “station” to the other.

    And if there is curiosity drift I think I know the principal direction it’ll take.



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  • This does not make sense to me. What is a reason station? Are you going to get reasonable financial advice there or reasonable ways to find cheaper air tickets? If the reason station is just promoting atheism, then it should be be on a public space just as the prayer station should not be. This is a city hall. It place the run the government, not push religion or non-belief.



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  • What is […]

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/ze4l8fwu6ww74ew/Warren_7-14_Complaint.pdf

    FFRF helped a Warren atheist resident who felt uncomfortable with ‘prayer station’, put in place 2009 by local church. Mayor (how was windy city) Faust felt sure ‘reason station’ would be “antagonistic” to other residents. Possibly he based this emotion on a previous FFRF situation (see post below).

    How about ‘Thor station’: ten easy ways to get to Valhalla.



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  • A Detroit suburb that allows a “prayer station” set up in city hall must also permit an atheist to set up a “reason station,” a federal judge ordered. Warren, Michigan must also pay a $100,000 fine.

    I suppose when neither reason nor prayer can get an even handed intelligent response from political leaders, judges have to impose a balance of citizens’ rights where there is none!



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  • Modesti Feb 27, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    What is prayer station? I do not know what it is.

    Is that one of those third world railway systems, where the management runs on faith, and political corruption, in place of financial competence, engineering and science?



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  • 14
    Cairsley says:

    My guess is that a prayer station is a place where one can go for prayerful assistance with problems and questions. There may be a team of good Christian souls there who will pray with you about your problem and, who knows? someone may be led by the Holy Spirit to speak a word of wisdom or knowledge that will help to solve the problem. I recall such prayer-groups that laid on hands and prayed with people in such a way when the charismatic movement became fashionable in the Catholic Church back in the 1970s. A reason station in the civic hall sounds like a good idea, though I am not sure how exactly it would operate. If it provides a team of people with whom one can discuss problems and questions to clarify one’s reasoning and increase one’s knowledge in order to solve the problems, then it can only be a boon to the citizenry.



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  • Perhaps people visiting the prayer station will see that there is an alternative and get tempted.

    Probably the work of the Devil at his invisible stealth station nearby.



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  • At first, I have read it like “player stations” hahahaha… But when I read it more carefully it did not make any sense again. So I know a little bit more now. And it is situated in a city hall! Can you imagine that? I wonder who allowed religious to have this station there. But it seems right then to have a “reason station” as article says.
    I can not get over, hahaha… prayer station!! Who ever invented that!! What idiotic brain.



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  • Yes, prayer station should not be in city hall. But if state is not separated from church (in constitution), than probably has a right to be there. But if state and church are separated by law than they are violating that law, isn’t it?

    Anyway, a religious kiosk in a city hall is a disgrace.



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  • Thank you for the link. The mayor Fouts is clearly religious. Sadly. But I am happy that Mr.Marshall won complaint.

    I liked Your allusion on Faust (Mephisto) in mayor surname.



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  • Perhaps they could alternate days with a Spaghetti Monster station where, instead of praying or rationally discussing, people could enjoy a nice spaghetti ala bolognesa and then go on their way.



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  • I think this might be a sad knee jerk type reaction against Muslim prayer stations. Because of the elaborate way muslims have to pray, they have stations/rooms dedicated, but segregated, for prayer. It seems like an arms war between religions. Stupid.



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  • It seems like an arms war between religions. Stupid.

    That sounds credible. What will the Reason Station do again? I worry making a single point about its possibility is not a good enough reason.



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  • There is a tactic used by ‘some’ peoples who worried about cases that were going to the ECHR so they advised their peoples to apply in great numbers. The ECHR could not deal with these numbers and were forced to come up with a different solution.



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  • Douglas Marshall beat the odds and got his Reason Station approved. It was a long shot but his prayers were answered.

    What the hell do you do in a Reason Station? Wait for the next Reason Bus?



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  • What the hell do you do in a Reason Station? Wait for the next Reason
    Bus?

    No. You offer a products of reason and not religious faith.

    In my opinion the reason station is a good thing. It is a response. Response towards irrational thoughts which disrupt natural processes of human development, progression of human civilization and natural laws. Religious organizations are constantly interfering in the natural relationship of man and nature, and this relationship is based on the truth of natural laws. We have the right to defend ourselves, to defend reason.

    “Truth is the intellectual wealth of the world. The truth is known by investigation, experiment and reason. Not believes.To love the truth is mental virtue. That is true bravery. That is freedom. To throw away your reason at the command of churches, popes, parties, kings or gods, is to be a serf, a slave. Therefore, it is not simply the right, but it is the duty of every men to think, to investigate for themselves, and every men who tries to prevent this by force or fear, is doing all they can to degrade and enslave their fellowmen”. (R. Ingersoll)



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  • Tell that to the persecuted Christians . They seem to think they get free run of everything do to some entitlement .I’m sure they threatened to sue if the town didn’t comply with their threats. The mayor and town board should be paying the fine,not the towns tax payers.But then again,if you are stupid enough to vote for someone who doesn’t know doing something like this is illegal and also lead to law suit,then the tax payers should be paying



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  • Who the hell cares. We get equal time and space. It says they will ” distribute information and engage in discussions on atheism” What the hell do you do in a prayer station that can not be done in your home or church? Wait until the Muslims want a part of the action and then the Jews and then…………………… It will cost the town millions to build a new bigger lobby when all they had to do is tell the Christians NO for free



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  • What the hell do you do in a prayer station that can not be done in your home or church?

    Offer passing members of the public prayer support.



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  • Mocking over!!

    Ewan, that is terrible. Do you mean to tell me that when you are on a journey, in an airport for example, you have moments of spiritual strife to deal with? Something that the information centre cannot deal with? Surely you should not be travelling if you are in that state? I am more glad than ever that I do not have to face those situations.



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  • City Hall is a building where government business is conducted. Setting up a prayer station in the lobby is a violation of the establishment clause because the city is establishing a space at taxpayer expense for the exclusive practice of religion.

    In my view, governments have no business providing space for freeloading advocacy groups. I hope the “Reason Station” proposal was a defensive ploy to get City Hall to sweep illegal religious clutter out of the lobby and return the “space” to municipal business. Neither a Prayer Station nor a Reason Station should be permitted. If special-interest groups are serious, tell their advocates to walk down the street and find an abandoned storefront for lease where they may set up a “Station of Their Own”…on their own nickel.



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  • Travel can be very stressful, can’t it? It’s quite common to have prayer rooms in larger airports where people can find a bit of peace.



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  • 40
    Lorenzo says:

    More for that moment when you’re struggling a bit and you’re not sure of the way forward.

    So… Sticking faith-pegs in other people’s faith-holes to help them forward?



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  • offensive religious clutter

    I’m curious that you find it offensive. I can understand why you might object to the presence of the prayer station for the reasons you explained. But is someone standing behind a table with some leaflets or whatever really “offensive”?



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  • Do they provide statistical success numbers on prayer at these places. If you tried to set one of these up in Canada you would be laughed out of the country. Still I think Stats are important and I have been unable to obtain these numbers from even the Christians. I am so tired of being ignored.



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  • In the U.S., the states are bound by the constitution and cannot have ‘established’ religion. The 1st Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    If a public space (government/taxpayer funded) is declared an “open forum”, then any citizen or non-governmental entity can use the space (often with an application process) to have a display of some kind. But it now falls under the freedom of speech clause which means it can be ‘religious’ speech. However, the government entity they censor or select the content of the display. (open to one = open to all).

    In this case, the Prayer Station was supposedly started by a private citizen with an approved application to the mayor. When Mr. Marshall applied for use of the space for the Reason Station, using the exact same application, the mayor denied it saying only freedom of religious expression was protected speech, not freedom of non-religious expression. In other words, he showed “preference” for religion over non-religion which made it a violation of the establishment clause as well as the freedom of speech clause.



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  • Sorry, my first time posting. That should have read “However, the government entity ucannot/u censor or select the content of the display. (open to one = open to all).



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  • If a public space (government/taxpayer funded) is declared an “open forum”, then any citizen or non-governmental entity can use the space (often with an application process) to have a display of some kind. However, the government entity cannot censor or select the content of the display because it now falls under the freedom of speech clause which means it can be ‘religious’ speech. This also means if it’s open to one it has to be open to all.



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  • Actually, this case wasn’t a long shot at all, it was a ‘given’. it was a clear case of showing preference for religion over non-religion which made it a 1st amendment violation. That’s why the city attorney’s settled, rather than going to court. They didn’t have a legal leg to stand on.



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  • But is someone standing behind a table with some leaflets or whatever really “offensive”?

    It depends on where the table is located and what the pamphlets and people handing them out advocate. In the case of the prayer station, the people behind them and their literature advocate “prayer,” an unambiguous religious practice in a government building financed by taxpayers to conduct public business. Legal interpretations of the establishment clause have evolved to prohibit promotion or preference for religion in government offices.

    bonnie’s helpful link above cites a narrow exception, one of many, to the rule of strict enforcement of the establishment clause. Personally I’m open to reviewing rulings in favor of trivial exceptions on a case by case basis at my discretion, but I’m not willing to equivocate about egregious material violations where government officials have allowed people a sanctioned platform or forum to promote or evangelize religious beliefs or practices..

    As many others have pointed out, the slippery slope argument is relevant. Numerous stations each backed by a special-interest constituency would start to multiply like bacteria. We’ve opened a can of worms inviting a cacaphony of arguments ad infinitum and ad absurdum.

    For the poor guy who came to City Hall on business -say to pull a permit for a new bathroom – there is a simple remedy, likely agreeable to the religious and secular alike.. Hang a sign in the lobby that reads: NO SOLICITING.



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  • There are drink stations for the thirsty. There are food stations for the hungry. There are chair stations for the weary but none of them are segregated for one particular religion.



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  • 55
    Starsector001 says:

    The word ‘station’ seems very confusing to some, but it’s just a booth, or a table with an attached sign overhead. it’s not a permanent feature of the building.

    But you are right that it was for christian prayers, and likely sectarian Protestant.

    The Mayor approved it and supported it. In fact, on his facebook page, it counted the prayer station as a personal accomplishment (which really raises the question as to whether it was ‘private’ speech-which is protected; or was government speech-which cannot show preference for one religion over another).

    In any case, once the Mayor opened the building rotunda as a public forum, the government entity has to remain neutral and anyone should be allowed to set up a booth whether it is religious or not, whether it is christian or not. All or none.



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  • How can a Christian prayer station cater for all religions?

    By praying with and for people of all belief positions who ask for it.



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  • 58
    Lorenzo says:

    By praying with and for people of all belief positions who ask for it.

    Ok, let’s do an experiment then. Let me select a random church (or whatever location configures as a “prayer station”), go inside, lay down a carpet and bow in direction of Mecca. Meanwhile, someone with a stopwatch keeps the record of how many seconds it takes until a mob forms and throws me out -or tries to kill me.

    Ewan, come on. Even you must recognize that “pray with people of oher beliefs” is something that is not going to happen on any relevant scale. Ever.



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  • My church has seven services a week. Today we had three. Lots of opportunity for real prayer in an appropriate place. I’m not sure what would happen if a muslim unrolled a prayer mat at my Catholic church but I’ll bet twenty bucks that my priest would be ok with it!



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  • My church has seven services a week. Today we had three. Lots of opportunity for real prayer in an appropriate place. I’m not sure what would happen if a muslim unrolled a prayer mat at my Catholic church but I’ll bet twenty bucks that my priest would be ok with it!



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  • Let me select a random church (or whatever location configures as a “prayer station”), go inside, lay down a carpet and bow in direction of Mecca. Meanwhile, someone with a stopwatch keeps the record of how many seconds it takes until a mob forms and throws me out -or tries to kill me.

    That would strike me as an extraordinary reaction, Lorenzo. Why would anyone – particularly a believer – want to kill someone for praying?



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  • 67
    Lorenzo says:

    That would strike me as an extraordinary reaction, Lorenzo.

    Perhaps you missed the last two thousand years of history of the world. But if you think it’s extraordinary, act Muslim for one week and try to pray in churches…

    Why would anyone – particularly a believer – want to kill someone for praying?

    That’s a common question among atheists, and it’s asked constantly. No believer ever came up with an answer. But holy books support the notion explicitly and it has always happened.



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  • Thanks Modesti, for reminding me of that passage by Ingersoll.

    I’m afraid it set me off quote mining!

    “Ignorance is the soil in which belief in miracles grows.”

    Perhaps “reason stations” could go some way towards counteracting the brain washing of infants which softens them up for radicalisation.

    Too many people in the UK are wandering around mumbling about the mystery of why so many young Muslims are so angry.

    Well, here’s a thought, Perhaps it’s because they’ve been told since infancy that the non Muslim world is inferior to their own.

    And if that is the case, who I wonder could possibly have given them that idea.



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  • Ken Mar 1, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    I’m not sure what would happen if a muslim unrolled a prayer mat at my Catholic church but I’ll bet twenty bucks that my priest would be ok with it!

    There seem to be some views on that here:-

    https://in.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080305195434AAL7H5t

    It’s blasphemous to pray to anyone else except GOD. Church consists of statues of Jesus; Hindu Temples have their own idols. Islam strictly forbids Idolatry.

    Anyway, Islam doesn’t prohibit visiting Churches or any other worship places. VISITING is allowed.

    Edit: I just gathered some information. Here you go:

    It is permissible to pray in any place, as long the place is clean (tahir). However, praying in a church, temple or a religious place of any other religion without any necessity is Makruh(disliked) but not *****(forbidden). However this talks about praying in a Muslim manner inside a church, and not praying in a Christian manner in front of the Jesus statue. It is not allowed to pray in a place where the pictures or statues are in front of the praying person, unless no other place was available.



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  • Thank You for link Alan, and explanation.

    but I’ll bet twenty bucks that my priest would be ok with it!

    Only 20 bucks? Oh, faith… . Hear ye, hear ye faith on sale! Only 19,99 plus tax. Little joke. 😉



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  • Hey Olgun, perhaps even psychiatric station, for people who are
    feeling struggled or stressful

    It would certainly have been more inclusive and even more helpful longterm.



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  • Larry Mar 1, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Do they provide statistical success numbers on prayer at these places. If you tried to set one of these up in Canada you would be laughed out of the country. Still I think Stats are important and I have been unable to obtain these numbers from even the Christians. I am so tired of being ignored.

    Try here:-
    http://web.med.harvard.edu/sites/RELEASES/html/3_31STEP.html
    Largest Study of Third-Party Prayer Suggests Such Prayer Not Effective In Reducing Complications Following Heart Surgery



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  • Did Jesus not say to not pray in public ? you are a hypocrite if you do ?

    Not exactly. He said that we shouldn’t be like hypocrites who love to pray in public in order to be seen doing so by others. As so often is the case with the teachings of Jesus, it’s not so much what we do that matters but why we do it.

    There were times when Jesus himself prayed in public, as did the Apostles.



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