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Facing Lawsuit, Bloomington Transit Votes to Allow Atheist Ads

In order to settle a suit filed against it, the Bloomington Transit Board has voted to allow an advertisement from an atheist group to be posted on city buses.

In order to settle a suit filed against it, the Bloomington Transit Board has voted to allow an advertisement from an atheist group to be posted on city buses. 

After being refused a spot for their statement, “You Can Be Good Without God”, the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign (INABC) and the American Civil Union (ACLU) sued the bus company, arguing the Bloomington Transit’s (BT) policy banning “controversial messages” allows the company to make judgments on which statements are controversial. 

ACLU attorney Paul Newman and several members from the INABC attended the board meeting to witness the vote, which was quick and unanimous. Newman then stood and made a brief speech of appreciation. 

“The search for the truth is controversial.  And that was our objection to the form of policy is that you were cutting out exactly what the First Amendment is there to protect, which is controversial minority points of view. 

As the INABC members applauded, he said, “So we thank you.”

After the meeting, BT Board Chairman Ray McConn said the bus company wanted to be sure its policy was indeed discriminatory before changing it. 

“Our policy was not as clear as deemed by the Supreme Court as we thought it was,” he said.  “With that clarification we went ahead and solved some sort of a situation and which a negotiation was came to pretty quickly.”

McConn said BT never intended to be confrontational. 

“We’re not for the atheists, against the atheists, for God, against God.  Religion was never a factor in our decision.  We had a policy we thought was a fair policy to run a bus system with,” he said.

Despite his group’s victory, INABC spokesperson Charlie Sitzes said the community should be outraged, and questions why the process took so long. 

“This is what we wanted all along.  We would question why there was so much foot dragging,” he said.

McConn said in designing a new policy, BT will likely attempt to further define what type of statements would be banned, rather than opening advertisement to controversial messages. 

He said the bus company spent about ten thousand dollars in legal fees, but adds the settlement includes no monetary rewards besides paying the ACLU’s cost to represent the INABC.

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