WARREN (WWJ/AP) – A judge says the city of Warren did not violate the law when it barred atheists from displaying an anti-religion sign next to a nativity scene at city hall.

Federal Judge Lawrence Zatkoff said Warren Mayor Jim Fouts had authority to bar the poster last Christmas because he felt it was antagonistic and would cause hostility. The judge says officials were not excluding a religious group or a non-religious group.

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The judge last week noted that Mayor Jim Fouts would have prohibited a sign attacking Santa Claus.

“As I stated in my letter to this anti-religion group (and upheld by the Court), the Nativity Scene did not constitute an endorsement of any religion, especially in view of the fact that we allowed other religions to celebrate their holiday seasons with displays at City Hall,” said Fouts, in a statement Thursday.

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“The Court’s decision states that the city’s decision to allow the Nativity Scene and not the anti-religion display did not violate the free speech clause, the establishment of religion clause, or the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “… The bottom line is the Nativity Scene will continue to be displayed at City Hall during the holiday season and the anti-religion sign will not.”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., wanted to post a sign that said religion is a “myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

A message seeking comment was left for the group’s lawyer Thursday.

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