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Austin Cline

Fort Worth Transit Authority Bans Religion-Related Ads

By December 22, 2010

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I wrote a few days ago about the controversy in Fort Worth, Texas, over the atheist group which had the gall to advertise their existence on public buses. How dare they intrude on the carefully constructed fantasy of Christians that they're the only ones who exist or who matter! Well, the complaints from Christians were so voluminous and nasty that the bus company decided that they just wouldn't allow any religious or atheist ads at all.

According to a news release sent out by The T: "The formal policy reflects most of The T's current guidelines which excluded certain local political, tobacco, alcohol, pornographic and obscenity-related ads. It will now also exclude any ads with religious, non-theistic or faith-based content and all political ads." ...

The news release said the recommendations came from the agency's staff "because of the distraction from its core business and excessive staff time" spent responding to the controversy.

Source: NBC

In one sense this decision is understandable. I'm sure that the people working for the bus company just don't have the time, energy, or resources to deal with outraged Christians. I'm sure that they were shocked at just how crazy some of the local Christians and even ministers turned out to be and wanted to avoid anything like this again in the future.

On the other hand, this decision means that they are giving simply because one group managed to be nasty and vocal enough. They have established their willingness to submit to whomever is willing to raise enough of a fuss, no matter how objectively innocuous the subject is. The next time someone doesn't like some ad, they can be confident that they'll get their way so long as they behave in a similarly infantile fashion.

You can be sure, though, that some Christians somewhere will treat this as an example of atheists "spoiling things" for everyone else. You see, if atheists insist in being treated as equals and Christians then complain so loudly that whatever program it is must be halted, it's always the atheists who get blamed. It's the atheists' fault for actually expecting equal treatment; it's never the Christians' fault for expecting special privileges or kicking up such a fuss that the program can't continue for anyone.

We see it around the holidays when atheists insist on being allowed to erect displays on public property just like Christians are accustomed to doing. If the prospect of atheists getting an equal public voice is too much for some local Christians to stomach, the local government prevents anyone from having public displays on public property -- and atheists are blamed for "spoiling" things. When kids are allowed to take home advertisements for religious programs and atheist groups request the same, Christians become outraged at the prospect of atheists advertising to kids and the program is eliminated.

Sooner or later, someone will say the same about this case as well. It will be yet another instance where atheists are expect to sit down and shut up rather than risk rocking the boat by demanding equality.

Comments
December 22, 2010 at 6:29 pm
(1) Grandpa_In_The_East says:

Austin:

Somehow, in a strange way, I can understand the hostility of our Christian neighbors in Texas. They’ve stuffed the collection plate for years and years. Some have tithed all their lives.

Now, someone puts up signs on buses in Fort Worth which essentially say: Millions of Americans are ‘Good’ for nothing.

At least that’s my take. ;o) One of them, anyway.

Grandpa

December 22, 2010 at 10:36 pm
(2) DaveTheWave says:

Then it’s about time they woke up and began facing the world without the mythology of religion. The sooner they accept that they have been duped and that there is no hard evidence of god or gods, the sooner they can move on and emerge from the Bronze Age into the modern era.

December 23, 2010 at 3:48 am
(3) James Hafseth says:

Hi Austin,

You wrote: “On the other hand, this decision means that they are giving [up] simply because one group managed to be nasty and vocal enough. They have established their willingness to submit to whomever is willing to raise enough of a fuss, no matter how objectively innocuous the subject is.”

I’m not sure I see this “giving up” as such a bad thing. They have not removed the atheist ads or refused to put them up and allowed the religious ones, they have banned all religious ads.

Now, I grant you I’m looking way out and with a small amount of rouge in my spectacles, but if every advertising position (billboards, TV, radio, magazines, etc.) ended up following suit for the same reason, I think that would actually be a pretty decent outcome: it would leave the christians pretty much nowhere to talk about their crazy ideas but in the church or their own homes, neatly quarantining their delusions from the general public. Surely that’s a worthy result?

I recognise, of course, there are then further battles to fight (tax exemption, child indoctrination, etc.), but I think it would quite neatly tie up the ‘war’ on one of the many fronts entirely.

December 23, 2010 at 9:48 am
(4) tracieh says:

I think it’s interesting that Christians would rather see everyone gagged–including themselves–than possibly allow an atheist opinion to be heard.

December 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm
(5) P Smith says:

As long as the same rule applies to everybody, I’ve got no problem with it.

But there’s the rub – the godbots want one rule for themselves, and one rule for everybody else. Hypocrisy is a core value of all religion.

.

December 28, 2010 at 3:28 pm
(6) Robin says:

I think this Ft. Worth decision is unconstitutional and I look forward to the litigation.

Compare with this similar situation:

http://www.chirobase.org/08Legal/bus_ad.html

Here a Connecticut transit authority did the right thing by refusing to control content and said, “The advertising space on our fleet of buses is considered ‘public forum’ ”

The government may NOT regulate the content of speech that occurs in a public forum. The government MAY make reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of speech in a public forum. The government may also declare that buses are not a public forum and prohibit all advertising on the buses. However, once the government (and the transit authority is a government agency) allows any advertising, they have created a public forum and painted themselves into this corner. They want the advertising revenue, so they must adhere to free speech rules. A private magazine or newspaper, on the other hand, is not a public forum and so may publish or prohibit any speech it chooses.

December 29, 2010 at 8:11 pm
(7) Grandpa_In_The_East says:

I wrote a check made out to Metroplex Atheists and mailed it 3 days ago. It was only $20.00 but, I guess, every dollar counts. I feel it’s the least I can do for those who are fighting for my dignity.

I think I am a Good American. I have an honorable discharge from the U.S.M.C. (And a Good Conduct Medal.) I was a peace time Marine–yes, one of the lucky ones!

For more information, I believe their email address is: coordinator@metroplexatheists.org

Semper Fi!

Grandpa

December 31, 2010 at 3:37 pm
(8) Bob says:

Even as an atheist I can understand the bus company refusing the ads. Running buses is a business and running ads is part of the business bringing in extra income. If I was running a bus service I would want non controversial ads which enhance the bus company and the advertiser’s service and products. There is no point in antagonising disgruntled Christians so losing passengers to competitors and possibly putting off advertisers. Bus companies are not the upholders of society’s principles.

December 31, 2010 at 4:43 pm
(9) Victoria says:

Austin says:

On the other hand, this decision means that they are giving simply because one group managed to be nasty and vocal enough. They have established their willingness to submit to whomever is willing to raise enough of a fuss, no matter how objectively innocuous the subject is. The next time someone doesn’t like some ad, they can be confident that they’ll get their way so long as they behave in a similarly infantile fashion.

After 38 years in the working world in a variety of companies, I have noticed that the most obnoxious, figuratively foot-stamping individual is the one that gets their way. Giving in to them is just easier than for the average manager to actually deal with the person. Much to my dismay and disappointment I have seen these over and over again.

December 31, 2010 at 4:45 pm
(10) Victoria says:

Ok, I forgot to add that I don’t agree with it, but it does seem to be a staple of USA society.

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