Fort Worth Transit Authority Now Bans Religious and Non-Religious Ads

In Texas, the Dallas – Forth Worth Coalition of Reason bus ad is getting all sorts of publicity because of this ad:

Of course, the publicity only increased after a Christian group decided to stalk the four buses carrying that ad with traveling billboards of their own:

How is the Fort Worth Transportation Authority responding to all this?

They’ve now revised their advertising policy:

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 agency’s staff recommended adding the exclusion of any faith-based ads because of the distraction from its core business and excessive staff time that have been required to respond to the recent controversy over religious versus atheist ads on The T’s buses.

The new rule goes into effect immediately, though the atheist ads that are currently in place will remain there until their contract has ended.

Just to recap, this change occurred because of the controversy — controversy! — brought about by this ad:

I wonder if the reason for the new policy is really because of the “distraction” from work or because they just wanted to avoid future controversy.

According to one source who was present at the Transit Authority’s board meeting:

One of the board members went on a rant. He voiced his disapproval of the ad and thought it was offensive because it was against god and the US is a Christian nation — referred to the pledge and money — and our founding fathers wanted it that way. He also complained about not being able to open the meeting with prayer.

If the meeting was recorded, it’d be nice to see or hear it…

Regardless of one ignorant board member, though, other transit and advertising companies have welcomed such publicity: You don’t like someone’s ad? Go put up an ad of your own! We’ll make money on both transactions!

And if you reject all religious/non-religious ads because a harmless one caused this much attention, where do you draw the line? What happens when a commercial product draws protests? Are all meat advertisements going to be banned if PETA protested an ad for chocolate-covered bacon?

I suppose they have to respond somehow. I don’t mind the change too much, since it applies to religious ads as well as ours. But it’s probably going overboard.

  • Lars Zachariasen

    “Forth Worth Transit Authority Now Bans Religious and Non-Religious Ads”

    Wouldn’t that be ALL of them?

  • Gordon

    Shouldn’t they check their records and see how many ads we are “owed” in the interests of “balance” before implementing this policy?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Good. Both don’t belong on the buses. At least not City run busses and, frankly, even privately run ones should show some discretion in the ads they allow. If one has to take the bus (who does it by choice; well, maybe a few environmentalists but 95% of bus riders don’t), one shouldn’t have insult added to injury by being preached at for being too fucking poor. I’m just wondering how many complaints about religious ads on the buses they’ve ignored in the past.

    And if they already have policies for excluding “certain local political, tobacco, alcohol, pornographic and obscenity-related ads”, it makes sense to add this to the list.

    Just wish hatred of nonbelievers wasn’t what it took.

  • http://fofdallas.org Zachary Moore

    I’ve got a recording of the meeting. I’ll post sometime today.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    i can understand why they had to do this; most state agencies are understaffed and underfunded these days. the last thing some poor overworked gov’t secretary needs to be doing is taking a zillion angry calls from outraged believers instead of the work that needs to get done to keep the buses running. i’m with the above poster; i hate ads on public transportation of any kind, even as i understand how they help fund the system. but i’ve never been comfortable with the idea that the government accepts advertising on public spaces. it just seems wrong to me and i wish we weren’t such an anti-socialist and hyper-capitalist country. government should not only be secular, but it should also be neutral wrt corporations and for-profit concerns, except to tax them progressively.

  • John Small Berries

    He also complained about not being able to open the meeting with prayer.

    It never ceases to amuse me that the very same people who get so furious over “anti-Christian” things like billboards always seem to reject the actual teachings of Jesus (in this case, the exhortation in Matthew 6:5-6 to refrain from praying publicly, but to pray alone and in private).

  • tues82

    I’m an athiest who lives in Fort Worth, I am a member of the group that published the ads on the buses. It was an inexpensive advertising space, which is why we chose the buses. If you don’t live in the deep south, you can have no idea how oppressed non-believers are down here. My 2 yr old was dropped from our pediatricians office because I told the nurse it was inappropriate that they had a HUGE poster on the exam room wall telling my 2 yr old 13 ways the Bible and God say you will go straight to HELL if you have premarital sex. I did not get angry or upset at her, I only pointed out that when my child is old enough to read, I wouldn’t appreciate him reading about sex and hell at his doctor’s check-up. I got a letter a month later telling me not to come back. The internet has been our only way of reaching eachother until now. Don’t fault us for trying something new for athiests.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    the US is a Christian nation — referred to the pledge and money — and our founding fathers wanted it that way

    And that’s why Adams, Washington and Jefferson crawled out of their graves in mid-1950′s to pass the laws that required the motto to be on our money, and the phrase ‘under god’ into the pledge. They would have done it sooner, but they were too busy being dead and such.

  • http://www.bornagainyesterday.com Justin

    I can totally understand this policy change. Have you ever tried to call in to a transit’s underfunded, understaffed call center? If I need to know some info about the bus I’m trying to get on I don’t want to have to wait in line behind some jerk who wants to rant about the content of the advertising. Especially since said jerk probably a) can afford a car and 2) doesn’t like his tax dollars going to pay for public transit anyway.

    These sorts of ads simply don’t do much. They’re like the marquee on a church. When I’m travelling by the First Baptist I don’t ever care if Brother David is speaking, I don’t care about the “What God Thinks About Sex” sermon this Sunday and the pithy quotes just make me cringe.

    Similarly with the bus and billboard ads, in my opinion.

    However, in much the same way that adopting a road does, local atheist groups can do a lot for their PR if they were to collectively do fundraising for their local public transits, who probably could really use the money. In fact, what if they openly challenged the local churches to a race? Who can raise the most money for public transit (or public education or a food bank or Goodwill, etc.) the fastest? The believers will make it about them being right, the non-believers will make it about agenda-free help for those who need help. We win.

    The number one thing an atheist group can do to be constructive is read Seth Godin’s blog. It’s free and brilliant. The second thing is read the book UnMarketing, which is not free, but inexpensive and worth way more than the cover price. Learn how to promote a message from experts, then do it.

  • http://shadowgm.diaryland.com Bob

    @Justin:

    It’s been a while since I’ve read them, but Guy Kawasaki’s books, ‘How to Drive Your Competition Crazy’ and ‘Rules for Revolutionaries’ are good for out-of-the-box thinkers.

  • http://thebrunettesblog.wordpress.com Ginny

    With this and the Chester County Tree of Knowledge controversy, it looks like one effect of atheist visibility and advertisement might be to suppress all religious and non-religious displays from publicly owned space. I’m okay with that, for a start.

    Of course, in the Tree of Knowledge case they wound up putting up a religious display anyway. The secular community needs to stay on top of these governments that are enacting new policies, to make sure they really are keeping religiously neutral.

  • JD

    Given the lengths the opposition went to be a bother in this circumstance, it’s probably the best way. They couldn’t just ban ads promoting atheism, the only way to make it fair is to ban religious ads too, which I would count it as a backfire against those that sought to boycott the atheist ad on religious grounds. It’s too bad that they transit authority might have to turn away a lot of revenue to make this policy work.

    I really resent the trend of “driving billboards” too. To have a vehicle in rush hour traffic whose only purpose is to be a rolling ad is simply irresponsible. Busses help move people and Delivery trucks help move things. Ads on them would be a secondary purpose. Ad-only trucks in the traffic pattern or stalking other vehicles is in poor taste.

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    I suppose it’s a win for secular principle, but there is a far more important ethical and political issue that is being….

    wait, did you say “Chocolate Covered Bacon”? Mmmmmm. Arghghghghghg…..

  • popeyemoon

    What would it cost for a mobile billboard truck.

  • exe

    @tues82:
    I hope you can find a rate-this-doctor website where you can list that you were dropped as a patient by this practice due apparently to religious reasons. Let others know that only people with certain religious beliefs will be treated there.

  • Lesilu

    “Forth Worth Transit Authority Now Bans Religious and Non-Religious Ads”

    Wouldn’t that be ALL of them?

    Heh, that was my thought exactly. Nice to know there’s plenty of other smart asses around.
    I’m sure anything can be complained about by someone, so while I understand the business side of this decision, it seems the wrong approach. It just empowers intolerance, ignorance, and unreasonableness. Though I’m sure most of their ads won’t get this amount of attention (ie, no one’s going to follow the bus with a Pepsi ad just because they advertise Coca-Cola).

  • http://getinhangon.wordpress.com/ Meg

    I’ve got to agree. This statement is so vague is pretty much eliminates all advertisement.

    I can appreciate that their office has been swamped, but it sure sounds like the main problem is the idiot board member.

  • SecularLez

    I am sure they were flooded with phone calls from outraged citizens because “the atheists” were allowed to talk about how millions of people are good without a belief in an invisible deity or good without religion.

    In any case, there are all sorts of public officials who believe the public sphere should be their own prayer circle. We should get rid of such people since they cannot separate church and state.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    It’s the version of the one kid in 5th grade that acted up and now none of the class gets a recess.

    I guess in this day and age of PC and being offended by anything, it’s the only option they felt would resolve the “controversy”

  • http://toughquestionsblog.com AZSuperman01

    I think the campaign was a huge success. The atheists in Fort Worth ended up with more publicity than they could have every hoped to purchase — and in the end the bus company has banned religious advertising.

    I see this as a win for everyone. (Assuming the bus co enforces their new policy.)

  • JimG

    Translation: “The reaction to these ads made it uncomfortably clear that our fundies are creepy whackjob stalkers.”

  • Stephen P

    @Justin:

    These sorts of ads simply don’t do much.

    Are you kidding? How about discussions in the local press, television exposure, debates in the city council, an article in the New York Times, umpteen blog posts …

    Have you even tried googling Fort Worth atheist bus advertisements? The exposure per dollar they have received would have most marketing managers drooling.

    The experts you are trying to refer us to are likely to be citing this case themselves in future editions.

  • jolly

    I wish someone would collect all these statements from people who say that this is a Christian Nation and use the motto on the money and in the Pledge to ‘prove’ it. Then send all these to the Supreme Court to really prove that those mottos are unconstitutional.

  • Synapse

    I am personally frustrated with the reputation this creates for us as being the perennial “spoilers”.

    “Everything was FINE before YOU people showed up and RUINED EVERYTHING!

    We’ve seen this played out over and over again:

    -Backpack fliers in schools

    Christians use it, Atheist group tries to use it as well, end result is that nobody gets to use it ever.

    - Holiday displays on government property.

    Christians use it for years, atheist group requests / demands equal access for themselves and others, too many groups request / time involved dealing with PO’d bible beaters and fox news trolls.. and the end result is no one is allowed to use the public space anymore.

    Over and over instead of pluralism and tolerance the end result is “everybody loses”.

    … and the blame is pinned on us, because of course, everything was fine before we showed up.

    How do we stop this cycle that, from my vantage point, is creating a cycle of bitterness in the general population?

    How do we encourage people to embrace diversity instead of being the one that always spoils the party?

    Is this really just the circumstances, like Chicago Dyke is saying – or part of the whole counter-strategy to “keep hate of Atheists alive”?

  • http://everydayatheist.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    @martymankins said:

    I guess in this day and age of PC and being offended by anything, it’s the only option they felt would resolve the “controversy”

    It’s funny you used the phrase “PC.” How many times have we seen religious folk grumble about political correctness when it’s their viewpoint that someone finds offensive, but let someone say something that they don’t like, and now they’re defending the Republic? Personally, I’d stamp out the term “PC” altogether, as it seems to be code for “anyone telling me I can’t say whatever I damn well please without consequences or objection is being too PC.”

  • Jon Peterson

    CHOCOLATE COVERED BACON?!?!?!???!!!??!?!???!

    My holiday wishlist can finally be completed!

  • http://krissthesexyatheist.blogspot.com/ krissthesexyatheist

    We have very few bus/billboard campaigns a year, while they have hella all year, all the time, year after year. We publish an innocent message of you are not alone and they get their panties all in a bunch and claim that we are trying to destroy xmas (straw man). Now, because of their actions, not ours, the transit authority has taken their ball and no one can play anymore. Unfair.

    Kriss

  • cypressgreen

    The agency’s staff recommended adding the exclusion of any faith-based ads because of the distraction from its core business and excessive staff time that have been required to respond…

    That’s pure BS. Once a type of ad is commonplace, it isn’t constantly complained about anymore.

  • Icaarus

    and all political ads.

    Okay so this policy will last right up until the next Presidential Election. Either that or the T will loose a lot of money when Obama is up for campaigning again.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    @tues82 Your group did a great job in the midst of an activity that got a lot bigger than you were probably expecting. I hope the awareness translates into positive opportunities for athiests in your area. I only wish you lived up here in Canada because if a doctor here did that, you’d pretty much own the medical practice after the lawsuit for discrimination.

    @Justin Your point is a good one. While it is great that the local atheists benefit from the media exposure, the transit authority is drageed aling for the ride, having to deal with all the non-transit related calls from the public *and* the deluge of media calls from local outlets who have a space to fill and think the story is interesting. I cringe when our national radio interviews someone fromthe US or Britain who becomes an unintentional celebrity and is answering the same trite quests from announcers who are interested in the sound of their own voice. Sometimes you simply need to remove distractions that prevent you from doing your core business.

    @Bob “How To Drive Your Competition Crazy” is an incredible book-when the hardcover first remaindered years ago I bought 200 copies and gave them out to organizations we were working with-it’s nice to see well-used copies still on their shelves even now. Guy Kawasaki is a brilliant thinker when it comes to non-religious “evangelism”.

  • JSug

    @tues82 You should really consider contacting the ACLU. I’m pretty sure you’ve been the victim of illegal consumer discrimination. A business can’t refuse to serve you because you don’t agree with their religious views.
    http://www.ehow.com/about_6471509_consumer-discrimination.html

  • http://www.coreymondello.comn Corey Mondello

    “WHHAAAAA im a spoiled brat, i cant have my way” ~ Forth Worth Transit Authority

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    It would have been nice to have had that TA officials rant recorded. It be good ammunition for us next time we manage to take the ‘Under God’ and IGWT to court. Maybe this would even be a good opportunity to do it in that jurisdiction.

  • http://fofdallas.org Zachary Moore
  • Stephen P

    @Synapse:

    … and the blame is pinned on us, because of course, everything was fine before we showed up.

    How do we stop this cycle that, from my vantage point, is creating a cycle of bitterness in the general population?

    Well, I’m not sure. But at least part of the strategy has to be pointing out that these atheists put up completely inoffensive advertisements with a positive message, and it was Christians who made a ridiculous fuss and spoiled the party.

    And another part is surely to keep putting up ads until people get used to the existence of atheists and stop making a fuss.

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    Thanks Zachary…that’s great!

  • Edmond

    Wow, if THIS is how it works, then lets start building some churches! Soon, NO ONE will be allowed to!

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    I think the decision is fine. Of course, it only came about because some theists are incapable of tolerating open expressions of atheism, but at least it applies to the religious side, too. This way, there can’t be Christian proselytizing on buses either. Where I live, the buses seem to stick to movie, restaurant and bank advertisements. There were Scientology ads a few years ago, and a brief anti-Islam campaign earlier this year, but neither appeared to get any media attention. Frankly, I think most people around here are content to mind their own business.

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    Anna, I agree that having a neither/nor approach is many times the best option in cases such as nativity scenes on a city hall lawns. However this is talking about paid advertising that no will mistake for government endorsement. In a market place of ideas sense, this is saying we can’t get our point of view across (and neither can religious groups). In a world were they have an inherent advantage and can mount advertising campaigns in other ways that we can’t compete with, we shouldn’t be so quick to lose this one. Do we think we have a better idea? If so, we should have every opportunity to let people know.

    I just watched the video and it sounded like that board member also said something to effect of “we need to get rid of this thing to protect our religion” What he’s saying is we need to shut out all other viewpoints to protect the established religion. That’s the most egregious thing he said, the references to Under God and In God We Trust are just icing on the cake.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Anna, I agree that having a neither/nor approach is many times the best option in cases such as nativity scenes on a city hall lawns. However this is talking about paid advertising that no will mistake for government endorsement. In a market place of ideas sense, this is saying we can’t get our point of view across (and neither can religious groups).

    Well, I’m okay with that. I don’t really want to see religious advertisements on buses, and I presume that most theists don’t care to see atheist advertisements. It seems to make sense for a company to stick to “neutral” (ie: non-political, non-religious) advertising. I’m not happy that this decision came about because of anti-atheist bias, but I’m completely fine with a company disallowing religious billboards of any type, as long as it applies to everyone across the board.

  • Richard Wade

    Now if we can just get the halls of government to do the same with their invocations of the Great No-Show.

    Instead of atheists protesting religious prayers at the beginning of city council meetings and whatnot, they should insist on being included, taking their turn to have someone give a non-believer’s statement to start the proceedings. The theists will hate that so much and cause such a ruckus that maybe the officials will have to adopt the no invocations at all rule, which is the way it should have been anyway.

  • Dan W

    I have mixed feelings about this decision. On the one hand, I think it’s pathetic that the Fort Worth Transit Authority is caving to the bigots who can’t stand to see an inoffensive atheist ad on a bus. On the other hand, at least they’re getting rid of religious ads as well. I don’t like that this happened because Christian bigots whined and complained, but at least the T is being more fair by getting rid of religious ads too.

  • Pingback: Daylight Atheism > Update on Fort Worth Bus Ads


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X