Iowan Refuses to Drive Bus with Atheist Ad On It

My school district is huge. So huge that, when the year begins, we hold a district-wide meeting at a local megachurch, because it’s really the only place where we can comfortably fit everybody.

I understand why we do it and, to their credit, the church has always gone out of their way to keep their faith out of the public event. There’s no prayer, mentions of Jesus, etc. It’s all strictly professional.

You wouldn’t see any teachers walking out of the building just because they hold different religious beliefs.

You know why? Because the teachers know that their presence in the building does not mean they endorse the church’s teachings (or support the church in any way).

A religious bus driver in Iowa is in a similar situation. She had to drive a bus with the Iowa Atheist Bus Campaign ad on it.

Unlike the teachers in my district, this woman didn’t do her job properly.

It happened during shift change. There were some passengers on the bus, but DART officials said they called in a replacement driver and passengers had to wait only about 5 minutes.

DART officials said the driver faces disciplinary action for refusing to drive the bus.

Good. She deserves it. There’s nothing offensive about this ad and it’s not even talking about theists:


More importantly, driving a bus does not mean you endorse the paid-for advertising on the side of the vehicle.

This driver was simply not doing her job, and she will be punished for it. Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART) handled the situation exactly as they should have.

(Thanks to Reginald for the link!)

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  • JulietEcho

    This happened in England as well, if I remember correctly. Wasn’t that bus driver fired or fined or something?

    Anyway, I feel the same as I always do about people who have moral reservations about some perfectly legal aspect of their job: get another job. If you feel moral opposition to dispensing birth control, don’t be a pharmacist, and if you have a problem with certain types of advertising, don’t get a job that involves driving ads around all day. Sooner or later *something* that offends you will come up.

  • Chris Jones

    This whole ongoing situation continues to baffle me. Has anyone yet given a remotely sane explanation as to exactly what it is about this particular ad that some of these people are finding so offensive? I’m baffled because often, even when I can’t find myself in agreement with someone, I can at least put myself in their shoes well enough to at least understand where they’re coming from. That just isn’t the case here. I don’t have a fucking clue where these people are coming from. I can’t even fathom what is offending them. OK — maybe a bit. Is it possible that the mere fact that we even exist is offending them? Because I’ll be damned if I can come up with anything else.

  • benjdm

    Seriously. How many atheist bus drivers have been driving religious advertisements around for years without refusing to drive?

  • Godfrey Zone

    I’m actually surprised this hasn’t happened more frequently! It’s pretty boringly predictable, after all.

  • Matto the Hun

    Ugg, the comments on that story only made me more depressed over the intolerance and hypocrisy of many Christians.

    perhaps this one most of all:

    haha, i’m glad the driver didn’t drive. dart needs to take off those stupid idiotic signs and also needs to be shut down so no one else gets hurt or even worse..KILLED! stupid company.

    so the this guy, who is oh so moral because he has the Jesus, is indicating that a sign that isn’t attacking any one but uses that most unwholesome appellation ‘atheist’ will cause an incensed Christian to pop off and shoot people on the bus?

    What fuck is wrong with that dude?!

    And by the way, we atheists are supposed to be the ones that are so immoral that we can pop off and shoot somebody at any moment. I know this because the fundie Christians tell us so. So why is it these extreme fundie Christians are the ones threatening or actually shooting people?

  • Dan W

    My opinion on this guy is the same as what I think about pharmacists who refuse to give birth control pills to women who ask for them. Fire them. His job is to drive a bus with ads on it, and he refused to do it. When you refuse to do a job that you knew you might have problems doing, it’s your own fault for getting that job in the first place.

    And wow, some of the obviously religious comments on the article are just hypocritical and stupid.

  • Matto the Hun

    As a further point to how completely full of shit these particular Christians are… according to them since a Christian doesn’t have to drive a bus with the word ‘athiest’ then:

    A vegetarian can refuse to drive a bus with McDonalds ads.

    An environmentalist can refuse to drive a bus with a Hummer ad.

    Animal rights people can refuse to drive a bus with a Philadelphia Eagles ad or even to an Eagles game.

    Devoted Michale Vic fans can refuse to drive buses with PETA ads.

    Observant Jews can refuse to drive a bus advertising anything that is open on the Sabbath.

    Native Americans can refuse to drive a bus with an ad for Macy’s Columbus Day sale.

    I’m looking forward to all these people taking a stand just like that brave, small minded Christian bus driver.

    I bet all the people above will have the support from the poor, persecuted Christians who applauded the bus driver. You’ll see… it’ll happen… just like that.

  • thilina

    Expect DART to have to deal with a lot of hate mail from Xtians with a persecution complex.

    I say fire the guy for not doing his job.

  • Tony

    I’d like to be a fly in the wall in the manager’s meeting.

    Boss: So I understand you found the ad offensive. Well would you mind telling us what you found so offensive about it?

    Driver: Well I’m a Christian!

    Boss: I am aware of that. So… would you mind telling us what you found so offensive about it?

    Driver: Well it’s an ad for atheists!

    Boss: Indeed it is. So… would you mind telling us what you found so offensive about it?

    Driver: But… I’m a Christian!

    Boss: How else can I word this…. no, I’m just going to repeat the question, would you mind telling us what you found so offensive about it?

  • Richard Wade

    Chris Jones,

    Has anyone yet given a remotely sane explanation as to exactly what it is about this particular ad that some of these people are finding so offensive?

    Is it possible that the mere fact that we even exist is offending them? Because I’ll be damned if I can come up with anything else.

    Chris, you answered your own question. It may be hard to believe or hard to accept that so many people can be so asinine, but there it is, again and again. The accurate explanation does not sound sane, because it is about insanity.

    Sadly, there are many people who think they adhere to the Religion of Love but who are filled with hate. They hate Jews, but they won’t say so. They hate all the other religions, but they won’t say so. They hate Christians of a different sect, but they won’t say so. They hate people of color, but they won’t say so. They hate gays, but they are realizing that they look asinine when they say so, and they hate atheists AND THEY THINK IT’S PERFECTLY OKAY TO SAY SO LOUDLY! And if they ever came to power, they’d gleefully bring back all that hate for all those other groups in a storm of hate to glorify their god of love.

    The only offensive thing about the ad is that it is paid for by atheists. If the ad said, “We love and respect all Christians,” these hate addicts would still be offended, just because atheists said it.

    In fact, that would be an interesting experiment. Put that on the side of a bus, with the by-line “Atheist Society of (your town’s name)” and see how much of the same pig-headed intolerance comes up.

    My only source of hope is knowing that there are Christians who are not like that, and who do more than cluck but who stand up against such insane hatred. Good for them. Blessed are the peacemakers.

  • Matto the Hun-

    I think that comment is in part referring to other problems the DART has recently had with running people over. One of the articles about the ads when they were originally taken down said “She said the mistake slipped in amid last week’s chaos with the DART-pedestrian crash and the release of its first hybrid bus.”

  • Excellent post, Hemant. Your beginning point nailed the issue.

    These fucking morons that think they are above even doing their job, make my blood boil. As Dan w said above, he’s no different than a pharmacist that refuses to fill a prescription based on “religious beliefs”

  • Richard Wade

    Matto the Hun,
    You’re bewildered by this comment:

    haha, i’m glad the driver didn’t drive. dart needs to take off those stupid idiotic signs and also needs to be shut down so no one else gets hurt or even worse..KILLED! stupid company.

    I think his reference to people being killed is the recent spate of several fatal bus accidents that DART has suffered. They are still reeling from that.

    So while the commenter has no gonads for not standing up for free speech, I don’t think he’s actually saying that the ads will cause people to murder others. He’s taking the opportunity to criticize DART for that as well as criticize the ads.

  • Jane

    How do you know the driver being referred to as “he” is actually male?

  • Just another childish person using his (very weak) faith as an excuse to be insubordinate. He deserves all the disciplinary action he gets. There is absolutely nothing offensive about that ad.

  • Jon R

    If DART needs a competant bus driver with a 2+ year safe driving record, I could make room in my schedule.

  • geru

    Ah, the Atheist master plan is working. Soon, all the Christian bus drivers in the world will be unemployed, then we move to putting ads on taxi cabs! Muhahaa

  • Matto the Hun

    ahhh, thanks for the lowdown advertisinglies.

    It’s still out of left field to throw an unrelated tragic event in the mix.

  • A later article shows it’s a woman, not a man.

    The remark by the lawyer Conlin is spurious; a “reasonable accommodation” might be to arrange her schedule if she told management ahead of time that she didn’t wish to drive buses with the ad, but she didn’t do that — she refused to drive a bus when she was due to take over the route, and directly caused a delay.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Good. He deserves it.


    On Monday, the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority suspended bus operator Angela Shiel after she refused to drive a bus with an Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers ad on its side. Shiel, 41, said the ad’s message, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone,” went against her Christian faith.

  • Thanks for the corrections, all. I’ve corrected the posting.

  • That kind of behaviour indicates a far right-wing fundamentalist voter for the Republican Party.

    Are you sure this is the real reason she refused to drive the bus? The reason I ask is because literacy and Republicanism tend to be mutually exclusive.

  • Alphonsus

    Bigots are ignorant self righteous hypocrites. The driver who refused to drive the bus is a bigot and an idiot. He deserves to be fired. The bus company can sell advertising to any group they want including an atheist group. I am so tired of ignorant self righteous idiots like this bus driver wreaking havoc with normal intelligent free thinking people! I have to put of with the likes of them and their weak minded rhetoric everyday.

  • Alphonsus

    So, many ‘Christians’ are only too eager to be offended. These are the types who think that they are the only true Christians. They secretly hate Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and other Christians groups that have existed hundred of years before their own narrow minded click evolved. They are the same ones who believe it is a sin to have a sip of wine. They hate jews, gays and lesbian and many others and they will lie about it to those people and themselves. God works in mysterious ways. Maybe some of their children will become atheist or maybe God will give them a gay child. They are hate mongers to the core and they will never change.

  • Just Some Guy

    If she’s /not/ disciplined, I’m going to start refusing to pay my bills – since I have a serious problem with the religious product promoted on the backside of the money involved.

  • Has any bus driver ever refused to drive a bus because of an advert for a Harry Potter movie on the side? :p