Iowa Atheist Ad to Be Put Back on Buses? August 7, 2009

Iowa Atheist Ad to Be Put Back on Buses?

Well, that was a quick turnaround.

First, this Iowa atheist ad went up on 20 buses in Des Moines:


A couple days ago, we found out the ad would be taken down.

The reason? Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) advertising director Kirstin Baer-Harding wasn’t sure. She said that the ads never should’ve been put up in the first place… and that there were too many complaints, presumably from Christians offended by I-don’t-know-what.

Which was it? Who knows.

Governor Chet Culver — a Democrat — also weighed in on the debate:

“I was disturbed personally by the advertisement and I can understand why other Iowans were also disturbed by the message.”

Maybe he understands it, but I don’t. If anyone can explain what about the ad is so offensive, that would be very helpful.

Anyway, the ads may now be coming back!

Thursday the chair of DART’s Board of Directors, Angela Connolly, told Channel 13 that DART has now actually received more calls supporting the ads than against them.

DART has asked the atheist group to submit a new advertisement for consideration. Connolly says she has been told the atheist group will meet tomorrow to discuss the offer.

First, yay for the victory, and thanks to all those who wrote or made phone calls!

Second, why do the atheists need to submit a new ad?

If DART would like to explain what was wrong with the previous one, then we’ll talk about replacing it. Until then, there’s no need to change it.

The ACLU is asking for DART to “provide them with their policy for accepting and denying advertisers.”

DART is being wishy-washy and unprofessional. Either they need to set rules and abide by them, or they need to stop taking down ads that offend the most sensitive of religious believers.

Many thanks to the Christians who voiced their support.

(Thanks to Ben for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • What a surprise that they’re getting cold feet after making their decision? Don’t you just love the publicity, DART? Or maybe it’s the ACLU getting involved in a case where you know you’re in the wrong?

  • Kudos to Christians and Atheists standing up for civil rights

  • Kiera

    I’m glad they may be going back up, but does it disturb anyone else that DART is acting in accordance with the feedback they get and not in accordance with I dunno, some sort of law? Straight up democracy can be kind of scary.

  • Todd

    DART is being wishy-washy and unprofessional.

    I keep mentioning this, but I still don’t think you guys understand DART’s problem. Yanking the ads were a kneejerk reaction in light of a far larger PR problem. Their top priority is to figure out a way to keep their drivers from RUNNING OVER PEDESTRIANS.

  • JD

    Driving through Jefferson Park to avoid the Kennedy yesterday in Chicago, I saw about four busses pull away from the blue line stop with an ad saying “GOD IS STILL GOD, whether you believe or not. Just believe”

    Seems a little strange. Whether you believe or not, just believe?

  • Hopefully all the emails everyone sent helped. I expect it was a bit of a deluge. And good on common sense for everyone. If they go back up, it’s a victory…and victories without court cases are the best ones.

    I wonder if it wasn’t this Kirsten lady who was truly responsible.

  • They would probably find it more acceptable if “IAF Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers
    ” were in the bigger font and “Don’t believe in god? You are not alone” were in the smaller font.

    Just seeing “Don’t believe in God? you are not alone” in big letters scares the Hell out of most fundamentalist Christians.

  • (Note: I say this as a secular conservative.)

    It’s funny that conservative Christians promote free speech, until it “offends” them.

    I think it’s clear any show of atheism, even in such a benign context as the above, will “offend” them. “Offend” really means, “I just don’t want to see it, to hell with the 1st amendment”.

  • Chal

    Um, how exactly can they come up with a new, less offensive ad? This seems to be about as inoffensive as it gets…

  • Ron in Houston

    Well, not that I want to give you a big head Hemant, but I do think you bringing light to this issue was a factor.

    Kudos also to Richard for calling out the liberal Christians.

  • What the fuck is so offensive about the ad in the first fucking place?

    And this is simply further proof that Chet Culver is a douche pickle. He got elected because nobody in their right mind could stand that Bushie, Jim Nussle, and he’s not half the politician his father was.


  • @Todd (on August 7th, 2009 at 6:52 am)

    I might be confused by what you’re trying to say here, but how are ads on the sides of buses, ads which the drivers can’t see while driving, causing said drivers to mow down pedestrians?

  • Snuggly Buffalo

    Might the request for a new add submission simply be a matter of bureaucracy? Maybe there’s some stupid red tape that prevents them from simply putting the ads back up without going through the whole ad approval process again.

    I’m withholding judgment until there’s more clarity regarding their request.

  • TXatheist

    I called so you all are welcome 🙂 Seriously, I left a brief but polite message for Kirsten and I am so glad/grateful others did too. As they say over at FFRF “it pays to complain”. Hemant…any challenge to religion can be perceived as insulting. Heck, I was conversing with the JW tomsheep and made an analogy that the JW’s were a cult just like homosexuality is something that needs to be beaten and he said I can’t call JW’s a cult. He really doesn’t get that saying homosexuality needs to be beat is insulting to gays in that same way. “They” don’t get it.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Second, why do the atheists need to submit a new ad?
    If DART would like to explain what was wrong with the previous one, then we’ll talk about replacing it. Until then, there’s no need to change it.

    I saw an the other day that said, “Wearing a red coat? You are not alone.” I was offended and disturbed, because I was wearing a blue coat, not a red coat.

  • Tom

    I swear, if you couldn’t figure out by now that this ad would be offensive to the religious, I’m amazed at all you figured out how to breathe today.

    It is common sense. “Free speech” is a concept, and as with any concept it takes thinking to understand. And that takes effort many people do not care to put forth.

    So I would as the people who are claiming they are clueless as to why people are offended at these adds to get serious and stop being dishonest with yourself. Go out and meet a Christian or something and enlighten yourself instead of complaining!

  • Sandra

    From what I understand, there is a state fair going on (that was part of the reason for the ad at this time, bigger audience). The only thing I see from DART is the desire to delay the ad until the fair is over, thus the reason for wanting a “less offensive” ad submission. It all boils down to politics, but that’s just my humble opinion.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    Tom Poe’d well.

  • TXatheist

    Tom, Hemant is not an ex-xian like myself so he doesn’t see promoting atheism as an attack on xianity like some xians might. I can understand how some xians see any thing not positive about god is wrong in their eyes.

  • I think they should steal the idea from this blog entry, and retitle half the buses to read:

    Don’t believe in free speech? You are not alone.

  • I sent Governor Culvert an email asking what exactly about the ad disturbed him. I tried my best to be polite and not call him an idiot, but it was difficult. I’m sure some snark came across in the email.

    I sincerely doubt he’ll respond, but still, is it really disturbing to know that some people have different beliefs?

  • benjdm

    I called the governor’s office and sent a message along.

  • JSug

    Here’s a suggestion for their new ad copy:

    But we’re sort of lukewarm on the subject of ALMIGHTY GOD.
    If you feel the same, you could contact us. Or not. Whatever.

    Maybe that would avoid offending or disturbing anyone. Maybe.

  • If they start right now on drafting new ads, they won’t be up until after the State Fair is over. IAF specifically wanted to reach the broad audience that would be riding buses during the fair – so this really isn’t a solution at all.

  • stogoe

    From what I understand, there is a state fair going on (that was part of the reason for the ad at this time, bigger audience). The only thing I see from DART is the desire to delay the ad until the fair is over, thus the reason for wanting a “less offensive” ad submission. It all boils down to politics, but that’s just my humble opinion.

    As much as I want you to be wrong, you’re probably right. Fair doesn’t start ’til next week, and if the pearl-clutchers who live in Des Moines can’t deal with the existence of non-christians, the rural folks’ heads would explode when they arrive in the “Big City” next week. Of course, the huge exposure was the entire point of the August ad buy…

  • lurker111

    Here we go with a new ad:

    “In the spirit of Numbers 31:15-18,
    God bless the children.”

  • Todd

    The more I time I think about this, the more angry I am over Gov. Culver’s comments. I could give a crap about DART and their stupid policy. At least for them I can say it was probably just plain old greed that led them to eventually take down the ads.

    Culver, on the other hand, better clarify his statement quickly, or I am officially done with the Iowa Democratic party. I’m not sure how he can clarify it, being that the only logical way you can be offended by that ad is if you find atheists offense, but I’m willing to give him a chance to dazzle us with some carefully crafted political bullshit. Right now, I’m planning on a quiet evening at home Nov 2nd, 2010.

  • Dan W

    While I’m glad to see the wishy-washy losers at DART are reconsidering their decision, I don’t see why Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers should have to submit an entirely new ad to them. There was nothing “offensive” about the original ad. Just some bigoted Christians who can’t stand to know that atheists live in their own state, possibly *gasp* in their neighborhoods!

    I say they send in the same, first atheist bus ad (the one taken down) as their resubmitted possible ad. Besides not being offensive at all, it looks pretty good to me. I like those fluffy clouds.

  • Deb Peddycoart

    When this hit the news I rode the roller coaster down about my state. I had been so pleased about Iowa allowing gay marriage and then to have the governor say this ad was offensive just stunned and disappointed me.
    I am on the roller coaster incline now to believe that some feedback from the non-offended public may have made a difference.
    Thanks to all who wrote.

  • Kerry

    I don’t know if there are religious messages on buses, there aren’t many buses where I live. But its not really fair if an atheist message gets to be on a bus, but a religious message doesn’t. That said, I’d be pretty pissed off and offended if there was a religious message on a bus. So what Im trying to say is fair is fair. If they let religious messages be on buses, then too damn bad if the religious don’t like the atheist messages. But if its only atheists doing it, I can see their beef.

  • It has been common among religious believers to look with misgiving at atheists and agnostics, and to think that they are mistaken; however, in many instances the opposite is the truth; some religious beliefs are not just baseless, but obsolete and irrelevant. It is unbelievable how myths and a religious fantasy have influenced human minds with more strength than reality!

    Most people don’t dare to confront their religious doubts; they are afraid of abandoning the “certainty” of their convictions, and opt for the status quo. The “God” of main line traditions simply does not exist. I accepted the challenge of finding the One who may be recognized even by agnostics and atheists, and came to the conclusion that God isn’t other than the Existence itself; and the Existence is, “I am,” the total existence, “All-That-Is.”

    There is a book most probably not written for you, but perhaps useful for some of your religious friends who still think that you are wrong and they are right: “Christianity Reformed From ist Roots.” It might help them to be relieved of the illusion, as I did myself. Distinguished philosophers and thinkers might give you an idea of this book—perhaps a generation ahead of time for most believers—(links below); or you might look at excerpts at

    Jairo Mejia, M. Psych., Santa Clara University
    Episcopal Priest, Retired
    Carmel Valley, California

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