Least Offensive Atheist Ad Ever Leads to New Advertising Policy in Pennsylvania County

More than a year and a half ago, atheist Justin Vacula and the NEPA Freethought Society attempted to place the following ad on buses in the County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS) in Pennsylvania:

That’s almost literally the least offensive atheist ad ever. It says the word, then shuts up.

COLTS rejected the ad, calling it too “controversial.”

Justin appealed the decision with the help of American Atheists, but the COLTS leaders didn’t change their minds.

We will not allow our transit vehicles or property to become a public forum for the debate and discussion of public issues, and since passing this policy in June, we have been very consistent in not allowing any ads that violate the policy. That’s why we didn’t permit Mr. Vacula’s ad promoting atheism,” said COLTS solicitor Tim Hinton.

A week ago, Justin tried one last time. He submitted a similar ad. Once again he was rejected. And yesterday, COLTS voted on a new policy that’ll prevent this debacle from ever happening again:

The amended policy, which the COLTS board approved without discussion by a 4-0 vote, clarifies and lays out in more detail the types of advertising the agency will not accept, including ads that promote the existence or nonexistence of a supreme being or deity or other religious beliefs.

“It’s our aim to be completely neutral on religious issues,” solicitor Timothy Hinton said.

He said the revised policy had been in the works “for quite some time” and was not prompted by the NEPA Freethought Society’s latest attempt to advertise on COLTS buses.

To be sure, you could argue that an ad simply reading “Atheists” is religiously neutral… but hey, they passed a policy that now prohibits religious and non-religious advertising. Equality for all, right?

I like how they refuse to credit Justin or the NEPA Freethought Society as the reason they voted on the issue yesterday… I’m sure the fact that COLTS could have faced legal action for denying them the ad had nothing to do with it, either.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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