Atheist Bus Campaign rolls into the US Bible belt – after the threat of court action
THE threat of a lawsuit has changed minds over at Bloomington Transit, Indiana.
The bus company was threatened with legal action after refusing to carry an ad – You Can be Good Without God – created by local atheists, but capitulated days before a preliminary injunction hearing was scheduled in the US District Court, in the Southern District of Indiana.
Members of the campaign said they are pleased to have reached a settlement with Bloomington Transit, saying:
The terms of the settlement are that BT will accept our ad for posting on as many buses and for as long of a time as we like, for the standard ad rate.Â They will also be reimbursing the ACLU of Indiana for a significant portion of their legal expenses.
The campaign group added:
Let’s be straight here: this is a victory not just for atheism and secularism, but for free speech all around.Â It’s not the end of our campaign, either.Â We intend to make the most of this victory: look for our message on Bloomington Transit buses in the coming weeks.Â We also hope the outcome of this suit provides a suitable precedent for the many other atheist bus campaigns around the country trying to get their own ads up.
By advertising on buses across Indiana, the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign, with its partner the American Humanist Association, hopes to:
Promote a lively and respectful discussion in the community and to counter the stigma against voicing atheist views.
The Indiana Atheist website features information about atheism and quotes from famous supporters of the idea that people can be good without god or religion. Its campaign has launched with a short video:
Campaign member Charlie Sitzes is quoted here as saying:
If you look at the numbers, about 15% of the population of the US are non-religious. That amounts to an estimated 46 million non-religious people in 2008, a number that has been growing over the past two decades.
The Indiana campaign is modelled after the Atheist Bus Campaign, which began in London with ads on buses bearing the message, There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.Â Similar ad campaigns have since sprung up in in cities around the world, including in Canada, Spain, Italy, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Croatia, and Australia. The Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign is the first group to promote atheist bus ads in the heart of the Bible belt.
Another member,Â Caroline Klein, said:
Many closeted atheists need a voice. For me, this campaign tells them that they’re not alone, that it’s OK to be an atheist.