Suspended Iowa Bus Driver Back at Work Today August 24, 2009

Suspended Iowa Bus Driver Back at Work Today

The point of atheist bus ads is not to make anyone angry. It’s to provoke discussions about a subject many people find uncomfortable and let closeted atheists know that they are not alone.

Last week, Iowa bus driver Angela Shiel refused to do her job because there was an atheist ad on her vehicle and she refused to drive it. She was rightly suspended for that.

Today, she was back on the job… but that may change soon enough:

DART officials told Shiel last week that she could keep her job as long as she didn’t refuse to drive a bus again. They could not promise her that she wouldn’t be assigned a bus with the atheist ad, said General Manager Brad Miller.

“We’re giving her a second chance,” Miller said. “There’s no assurances that there might not be another ad she doesn’t agree with. There’s so many different things that go into that, there’s no way we can guarantee anything.”

Miller said Shiel was told she would be subject to termination should she choose to walk away from the job again.

Shiel said today that her views on the ad haven’t changed and she still will not drive any bus with the ad.

“Hopefully I won’t get the sign anymore,” she said. “It’s a chance I have to take. …I like what I’m doing. I don’t want to start all over.”

The ads will be up for another three weeks… and about a sixth of the bus fleet carries it. There’s a good chance she’ll have to drive one of the dreaded buses. That’s when she’ll see this oh-so-incredibly-offensive statement:


I would love to know what is so offensive about that ad… and what ads are on the buses she is willing to drive. (On a side note, did anyone else know that the word “buses” is only one letter and an unscrambling away from “Jesus”? Just me? Oh well.)

(Thanks to Brian for the link!)

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  • ChameleonDave

    Hemant, you keep on using the word ‘offensive’, but I haven’t noticed it in any quotation from the driver in question. As far as I can tell, she simply believes that messages comforting atheists (sinners by definition) are not to be spread. Offence doesn’t apparently come into it.

    It’s basically as though someone put up an ad with a reference to some other group that people don’t like (pædophiles, neo-nazis…) with the line ‘you’re not alone’ under it. People believing that no one ought to be in such a group are likely to be against the spreading of a message of comfort.

  • @ChameleonDave: Well, that’s how it’s offensive, no? It’s disturbing to her that bus ads are made openly visible, encouraging atheists to come out and join forces and so forth. Merely acknowledging that atheists walk the streets is offensive, disturbing, whatever word you choose (all mean the same thing in this context).

    On-Topic: Now, that’s one driver who’s keen on losing her job, it seems.

  • Shannon

    If you click through to the link you find

    “Shiel said the message was offensive and went against her Christian beliefs.”

    Sigh. This is really the most innocuous atheist ad of them all. It really does shock me that there are people who are upset just because we *exist*, you know?

  • Valdyr

    It really does shock me that there are people who are upset just because we *exist*, you know?

    That’s if they believe we exist. I was actually kind of surprised that the church sign professing disbelief in atheists was noteworthy enough for a whole update. That sentiment is pretty common, at least where I am.

    Actually, not too long ago I was speaking with an elderly, evolution-accepting, decent liberal Protestant who had been a biology professor for his whole career, and I happened to mention I was an atheist. He said that he didn’t believe anyone was. Sigh. Maybe he’s old enough that he went through school before such things were spoken of openly… I can’t imagine anyone could get into evolutionary biology at the university level nowadays and not encounter atheists.

  • Brian Westley

    She has roughly a 12% chance to avoid driving an atheist bus, assuming she is assigned 1 random bus per day and drives 15 days over the next 3 weeks.

  • Sackbut

    Shiel is quoted here as saying, “I’m not driving that bus with that sign on it. It goes against everything I believe in.” And later, “For me to drive a bus that is totally against my beliefs personally – that’s why I didn’t take it.” Seems pretty clear to me she finds it offensive.

  • Gordon

    I wonder if she would refuse to drive the bus if an athiest were on-board? Would she refuse to drive a bus charted by athiests?

  • barker

    I just don’t see DART officials wanting to go through the whole controversy all over again and will somehow find a way to keep her from being assigned one of the devil buses.
    So next time, Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, SMALL ads on ALL the buses.

  • J B Tait

    Does anyone know if an ad that said, “Think Hitler was right? You are not alone” would be illegal as hate speech?

    From the bus driver’s point of view, it might be that she thinks atheist thoughts are just as offensive as Hitler’s, and therefore admitting there are folks who share them shouldn’t be allowed. As in, it is the concept that the sign leads one to think about the ideas just by mentioning the source thereof, that is causing the grief.

    The part she doesn’t understand is her role here. If a publisher is required to print an unacceptable letter to the editor, oped opinion, or ad in his newspaper, does the man running the press need to walk off the job? How about the delivery person?

    I admire her for being willing to give up so much to make her point though. That takes courage.

    I would say I have been being a bit of the Devil’s advocate on this site today, except I don’t believe in the Devil either.

  • It’s also only one letter away from Jebus!

  • skeeto

    @J B Tait: Hate speech isn’t one of the things the US censors, so it wouldn’t be illegal. It would be interesting to see how DART handled something like that, though.

  • ChameleonDave

    If you click through to the link you find

    “Shiel said the message was offensive and went against her Christian beliefs.”

    Ah, thanks for that. I had only read the original article about her refusing to drive the bus. I didn’t realise that this new article had a new quotation from her about her motivations.

    I stand corrected. She is indeed playing the ‘I’m offended’ card. We progressives have played it so many times (think of racism and sexism) that it’s not surprising these religious nutcases have cottoned on to the value of using it cynically. Or it may not be cynical — it may be bad English for ‘I strongly disagree with this’.

  • Richard Wade

    I admire her for being willing to give up so much to make her point though. That takes courage.

    Courage would be for her to examine her unexamined prejudice, question her unquestioned hatred, and soften her hardened heart. Courage would be for her to acknowlege that people who see things differently than she does still deserve the respectful treatment that she is afforded every day by many people who are different from her. It is not courageous for a bigot to risk her job for bigotry. That is nothing but self-righteous pig-headedness. Courage would be to show love.

    The only part of the bus ad that she finds (ahem, shall we use the word objectionable?) is the word in between “Iowa” and “and.” Just that one word. The rest of the message is irrelevant to her, and it would make no difference to her what it said.

    She is cowardly.

  • ChameleonDave

    Courage would be for her to examine her unexamined prejudice, question her unquestioned hatred, and soften her hardened heart. Courage would be for her to acknowle[d]ge that people who see things differently […]

    You can call that ‘courage’, but ‘wisdom’ would be a far better description.

    It’s OK to see positive things in people you dislike, ya know. I can admire the dedication of people who devote their lives to a god, even as I shake my head at their foolishness. I can contrast them with more rational people who nevertheless do not summon up enough fortitude to do more than muddle on through life, doing no harm but no real good either. (I include myself in that!)

  • Can someone please explain how the message goes against any Christian beliefs, mainstream or unconventional? Chapter and verse would be grand. 😉

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you for correcting my spelling of “acknowledge.” The rest of my opinion remains unchanged.

    There is a difference between being dedicated and being stuck. If she is so heroically dedicated to defending a principle, then she should be able to state what that principle is. If I hear it from her, that might change my opinion. But vague babbling about the sign being “against her Christian beliefs” is not a principle, it’s just a lame rationalization for her reactionary intolerance.

    If someone with whom I disagree has an admirable trait, I admire them for that. She seems to be practicing a mechanical, unthinking, knee-jerk loathing of people who have done her no harm, and that is not admirable.

    I strongly hope that she does not lose her job, so that she won’t try to raise her bigotry to pretend to martyrdom. She will remain just another willfully ignorant, falsely pious bigot driving a bus.

    This is my stop.

  • Liudvikas

    I am just curious, what part exactly she finds offensive? There probably can’t be less offensive message and yet she’s offended.

  • Brg

    Well, best she can do is to pray that she is not assigned any bus with that sign. And if she gets one, then what happens next, if she refuses to drive it, is only the will of her lord.

  • stogoe

    Look, it’s simple – if you let the other team exist in any form without persecuting them, that makes Baby Jesus cry.

    Baby Jesus does not tolerate any dissent, and if you allow the other team to go about their business, that’s the same thing as joining up with them. This is the same god who says that having lusty thoughts merits the same punishment as genocide.

  • Alan in CA

    rescinded my statement

  • TJ

    What if an atheist refused to drive a bus with a Christian ad on it? Way different story and blown way out of proportion on national news methinks.

    Wait… what would happen to her if there was both a Christian ad and and atheist ad on the same bus? 😀

  • JJR

    Maybe local Iowa atheists should try to find out what route she drives and have one atheist at every bus stop, wearing a tastefully atheist shirt, and try to board. See if she drives on and leaves ’em standing in the dust… 😉

    I was disappointed to read she hadn’t changed her mind, though. I had hoped maybe she had to go home and “pray on it”, and “God” told her to get her @ss back to work. Good ol’ Protestant work ethic and all.

    She’s lucky she can be so cavalier about her employment status, since I guess there’s always the church food pantry if she gets canned and has to look for a new job; maybe she can be the new cashier at the local Christian bookstore…

    Also, one wonders if she’d raise the same kind of ruckuss over, say, Gay-friendly advertising or the local Synagogue’s outreach efforts. Probably not.

  • numsix

    On Richard Wade’s martyr comment; I wouldn’t be supervised if this was followed by a Lawsuit:

    “I am being fired for my Christian beliefs”

  • cybrgnx

    Not only should the atheists be at every stop, but when she picks you up as you go by her thank her sencerely for supporting the atheists by driving us to our destination.
    Too bad i don’t live there, now that I’m laid off I whould have to time to do it.

  • Carlie

    No. Courage isn’t making a statement and then saying that it has to be accommodated. Courage would be if she lost her job over it and accepted it as the natural consequences of taking a stand. For people who say they are willing to suffer for Jesus, they sure are quick to lob lawsuits any time they don’t get their way. This is just like the pharmacist debacle – the consequence of not wanting to dispense medicine is to find a different job, not to legislate that you don’t have to do yours.

  • Jeffrey

    Courage would be if she just ignored the signs and drove the bus.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    If the driver does get the axe, I’ll bet she views it as her Carrie Prejean moment — where her god is putting her to the test.

  • cherveny

    Wonder if this means she wouldn’t drive a bus with a jewish ad, a budist ad, if she’s prod. Christian a catholic ad, etc etc. In her eyes how exacting to her beliefs must all the ads be

  • It’s reverse fear. She and others who oppose the ads, are fearful that the fear-induced teachings may not be enough to have someone use their brain and think about the possibility that there may not be a God. Then that would lead to more people becoming non-believers, thus reducing the flock from the fold.

    If this bus driver is that narrow-minded in her views, then she’s pretty stupid.

    Maybe her followers can pay her bills when she gets fired. It’s the least they can do to support her nonsense.

  • I think we all ought to contribute to a fund to buy ads on all 120 DART buses and see what she does then.

  • It is so easy to prove the existence of a Creator.

    It would be a better spent money if they made a commercial with the formal logical proof found in the below website.

    Read more here: (left menu)

    Anders Branderud

  • I wish that there could be billboards and bus signs that say:

    Has your child been molested by a priest?
    Call 1-800-EAT-SHIT
    Alan in CA
    The woman is the victim of a fraud; she shoul not be respected much less admired!

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