More than two years ago, atheist Justin Vacula and the NEPA Freethought Society attempted to place the following ad on buses in the County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS) in Pennsylvania:
That’s almost literally the least offensive atheist ad ever. It says the word… and little else.
COLTS rejected the ad, calling it too “controversial.”
Justin appealed the decision with the help of American Atheists, but the COLTS leaders didn’t change their minds.
“We will not allow our transit vehicles or property to become a public forum for the debate and discussion of public issues, and since passing this policy in June, we have been very consistent in not allowing any ads that violate the policy. That’s why we didn’t permit Mr. Vacula’s ad promoting atheism,” said COLTS solicitor Tim Hinton.
Last year, Justin tried again. He submitted a similar ad without the mention of American Atheists.
Once again, he was rejected. In fact, COLTS voted on a new policy to prevent this “debacle” from ever happening again:
The amended policy, which the COLTS board approved without discussion by a 4-0 vote, clarifies and lays out in more detail the types of advertising the agency will not accept, including ads that promote the existence or nonexistence of a supreme being or deity or other religious beliefs.
“It’s our aim to be completely neutral on religious issues,” solicitor Timothy Hinton said.
He said the revised policy had been in the works “for quite some time” and was not prompted by the NEPA Freethought Society’s latest attempt to advertise on COLTS buses.
To be sure, you could argue that an ad simply reading “Atheists” is religiously neutral… but hey, they passed a policy that now prohibits religious and non-religious advertising. Equality for all, right?
Well, Justin didn’t give up. A revised ad, stripped of even the word “atheist,” was actually approved by COLTS. The only issue now is whether he can raise the money to put it on buses:
You can chip in right here:
$230 will allow for creation and one month of display. Additional funds raised past $230 will pay for Indiegogo fundraising fees and be used to benefit the NEPA Freethought Society including but not limited to upkeep on its meetup.com website. [$500 is the minimum for an Indiegogo fundraiser.]
Hats off to Justin for his persistence!
(Large portions of this article were posted earlier)