U.S. atheists sue to run bus ads for a God-free lifestyle
A coalition of atheists is accusing a United States city bus line of violating their rights to free speech in a fight to place ads on public buses praising a God-free lifestyle. The Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason alleged in a lawsuit that the Central Arkansas Transit Authority in Little Rock and its advertising agency are discriminating against the group because they’re being required to pay tens of thousands of dollars to put $5,000 worth of ads on 18 buses.
The ads would read: “Are you good without God? Millions are.” Other groups, including churches, have not been required to pay the fee, which amounts to $36,000 in insurance in case of an attack on the buses by angry Christians, according to the lawsuit.
The insurance was requested by the transit agency’s advertising firm, On The Move Advertising, officials said. Because a handful of similar ads had been vandalized in other states, the ad agency required the payment for insurance reasons, said Jess Sweere, an attorney representing the transit authority.
“To my knowledge, OTMA has not requested this in the past because no other advertiser told them their ads were vandalized in other markets,” Sweere told Reuters.
Sweere said the transit authority was all set to accept the ads, but that the advertising firm raised the concerns that lead to the insurance requirement. Negotiations were still going on when the lawsuit was filed last week against the transit agency and the ad firm.