Atheists in Arkansas penalised for possible acts of Christian vandalism
THE Central Arkansas Transit Authority and its advertising agency have been served with a lawsuit after they demanded an outrageous amount of money to allow a local group of atheists to run an ad campaign on a fleet of 18 buses.
The transit agency’s ad firm – On The Move Advertising – required the group to pay $36,000 dollars in insurance for a campaign that would ordinarily cost just $5,000.
Because a handful of similar ads had been vandalised in other states, the ad agency required the insurance payment, said attorney Jess Sweere.
The ads would read:
Are you good without God? Millions are.
To my knowledge, OTMA has not requested this in the past because no other advertiser told them their ads were vandalized in other markets.
Sweere said the transit authority was all set to accept the ads, but that the advertising firm raised the concerns that lead to the insurance requirement. Negotiations were still going on when the lawsuit was filed last week against the transit agency and the ad firm.
We were planning to run the ads as soon as the contract was worked out.
LeeWood Thomas, a spokesman for the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason which alleges discrimination in its lawsuit, quoted an email from the advertising agency which read:
Arkansas is the buckle of the Bible Belt and I can easily envision zealots or upstanding citizens with a strong faith acting out.
Thomas said it was clear his group is being punished for the actions of others.
The insurance money needed from us basically says CATA and On The Move trust the atheists in this community more so than the religious, otherwise the churches that advertise would have that extra insurance premium added to their total cost.
The coalition is asking a judge to issue a preliminary injunction forcing the bus company to accept the ads while the suit moves forward.
The transit authority and its advertising agency were served with the lawsuit on Monday. They have 21 days to respond.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Arkansas group by UnitedCoR, a Washington-based national organization that focuses on organizing local atheist and agnostic groups into coalitions and funding their bus and billboard ad campaigns.
UnitedCoR has placed such ads throughout the United States since 2008.
Out of 36 markets where ad campaigns have run, four have been vandalized, including bus ads in Detroit last year, according to UnitedCoR’s website.
Last year, UnitedCoR placed ads on outdoor billboards and buses in Fayetteville, Arkansas, without incident.
In 2009, the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers successfully sued the state of Arkansas to erect a ‘Winter Solstice’ display on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol near a nativity scene.
Hat tip: Adam Tjaavk