Not on the buses – Atheist advert in Little Rock

The Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) declined to allow the above advert on their buses, if you look at the Dawkins website – The Atheist Billboard That Was Banned in Central Arkansas – . Howls about freedom of speech will duly follow with this report by the Friendly Atheist blog.

However, as I say quoting on my blog Einstein do not condemn without investigating unless you are ignorant. The Transit Authority says that they approved the art work in March; the sticking point is that though the adverts would cost $5,000 approximately the advertising subsidiary of the CATA asked for $30,000 insurance for vandalism. CATA is public but the advertising arm is a profit venture. [Source]

The issue seems to be the price of free speech and whether this deposit insurance amounted to discrimination compared to what would be required of other groups wanting to advertise. The courts will no doubt decide as the United Coalition for reason (UCR) has filled a lawsuit. Their press release is here.

The lawsuit will generate more publicity than $5,000 ever could. CATA may have a point there about publicity but should advertising charge or make financial demands based on supposed public reaction of criminality? The other issue is would not existing insurance for the buses cover vandalism – and the above advert cannot be considered a potential incitement to criminality not least because many believers would agree you can be good without god.

Perhaps not saved without, or even able to exist without god, but that is another argument.

Let us be clear that it was the financial obligations being imposed on the atheist coalition for advertising which is the contention, and not an outright ban by the Transit Authority. The advert was not banned and we need to be clear on this because the argument is essentially whether price discrimination (assuming this is the first time they have made this demand) was used to hinder free speech or whether it was a legitimate requirement for the public company to make.

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