The Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign Launches Lawsuit against Bloomington Bus Company
For Immediate Release - Contact Ken Falk, ACLU-Indiana, (317) 635-4059 ext. 229
Charlie Sitzes, INABC, (812) 666-4135
(Bloomington, Indiana, May 7, 2009) The Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign (INABC) recently filed a suit against the Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation (BPTC) for refusing to run a busadvertisement that states “You Can Be Good Without God.” The Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign’s slogan was rejected by the BPTC because it was deemed “controversial,” in violation of company policy. The Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign in their suit argued that the BPTC’s policy and the refusal of their ad was a violation of INABC’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
“Bloomington Transit, which is a municipal bus service, should embrace our nation’s cherished tradition of freedom of ideas and revise its policy of censorship,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, the organization that designed the ad and has been working with the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign. “The fact that people can be good without belief in a god is simply a statement of fact. Our humanist and atheist communities are made up of people who are peaceful, law-abiding and good Samaritans. They’re true to their families and true to their principles--just like members of religious communities."
The suit argues that BPTC’s policy, which allows it to refuse any advertisement which it deems to be a “statement of position in support of or in opposition to controversial issues,” gives the BPTC unbridled discretion to censor unpopular opinions. The policy against "controversial" advertisements is unconstitutionally vague, unreasonable and overbroad, and thus should be enjoined, INABC argues. “We made every reasonable effort to come to a solution with the transit company by means of discussions with the city attorney, but we were still rebuffed,” said Charlie Sitzes, an INABC spokesperson.
The intent of the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign’s ad is to let like-minded people know they are not alone and that there are others with whom they can join together. “It isn’t an attack on religion but an affirmation of a different point of view,” Sitzes added. “The only way a person could remotely construe the message as harmful and too controversial even to be seen is if it conflicts with a pre-conceived and false belief that atheism is wicked and immoral. It’s too bad that such prejudice is still so prevalent in America."
The Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign is one of a series of prominent nontheistic bus ad campaigns around the world. The American Humanist Association ran a bus ad in Washington, DC, that read “Why Believe in a God? Just be Good for Goodness’ Sake,” and similar bus ads have gone up in Britain, Canada and Spain. But there have been two campaigns, in Australia and Italy, that met the same resistance Indiana is encountering.
The attorneys for the plaintiff are Kenneth Falk of the ACLU of Indiana and cooperating attorney Paul Newman of Bloomington. The suit, Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign v. Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation, was filed in federal court in the Indianapolis Division of the United States District Court.
A PDF of the complaint can be found online at
The Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign (http://inatheistbus.org/) was created to purchase advertising on public buses in support of atheism. Through such advertising across Indiana, INABC has partnered with the American Humanist Association in hopes of promoting a lively and thoughtful discussion in the community and to counter the stigma against voicing atheist views.
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.