Residents of Scranton, Pennsylvania, are a godly bunch. So devout, in fact, that a local bus company rejected the ad pictured above because it feared the word ‘atheists’ it might spark violence.
The rejection of the ad by the County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS) occurred in 2015, and shortly after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against COLTS – but the case has only just come to federal court.
Yesterday, according to this report, lawyers representing the ACLU and Justin Vacula, above, of the NEPA FreeThought Society, alleged that the rejection was a violation of the the atheist group’s right to free speech.
In this area religion is particularly popular and the viewpoint of atheists or secularists is very unpopular. As an organization we’re seeking to provide a community of supports and have our face in the public.
COLTS argued the advertisement violated a policy set-up in 2013 which prohibited ads that specifically mention politics or religion among other things.
The bus company argues its policy is reasonable because it worries about heated debates or even fights breaking out.
The ad was shown to several bus riders in Scranton on Monday who weighed in on the issue.
Raymond Ward of Carbondale said:
That could be taken several ways so I see why that would be offensive to some people and they’d want to give COLTS hell and COLTS doesn’t want to start that!
While some people took issue with the proposed ad others didn’t and they felt it should have run. Eileen Masters of Scranton said:
Just like anyone else they can advertise. I don’t know what the problem is.
And Anthony Demor, of Rochester, NY, said:
I don’t have an issue with it. It’s expressing another type of mindset, a different type of culture
He thinks the advertisement could have actually sparked meaningful discussion.
One of the biggest Christian lessons, I think, is to always accept other people, trust in your neighbor and build a community.
The judge on Monday was asked to declare COLTS advertising policy unconstitutional but it’s likely a decision won’t be made until at least early 2018.
The judge gave lawyers on both sides more time to file legal arguments before he makes a final decision.
The NEPA FreeThought Society is not seeking any monetary damages from its lawsuit. The group says it is still interested in running its advertisement.