Earlier this week, the Des Moines bus system abruptly removed ads from their vehicles that had been purchased by an atheist group. The bus system had received numerous calls and complaints, and apparently some people actually refused to ride busses that had the ad. The Governor of Iowa, when asked, said that he “was disturbed personally” by the ads:
Iowa Governor Chet Culver has commented on the controversy: “I was disturbed personally…by the advertisement, I can understand why other Iowans were also disturbed by the message that it sent. But, we’ll see how it unfolds,”
Culver avoided giving his opinion on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of a free speech right for atheists to advertise on buses: “I think it’s a great question for the attorney general and for legal scholars to kind of sort through that, that balancing act between free speech and the type of message that is being sent. But I do again understand that people were actually not wanting to get on the bus, they were so disturbed by the message that was being sent.”
The ads said, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” They also had the website address for the group that purchased the ads. And nothing else.
That message – the simple message that there is, in fact, more than one person on the planet who does not believe in God – was so offensive that it “disturbed” the Governor of Iowa. It was so offensive that people didn’t want to get on busses that carried the message. Apparently, it’s so offensive that there needs to be some sort of “balance” between free speech and the messages being sent.
The bus system has apparently offered to work with the group to come up with a new ad that will be less offensive, but I’m having a really hard time believing that’s a sincere offer – in large part because I’m having a hard time finding anything offensive about the first one.
And people wonder why there are angry atheists around.
Oh, and Des Moines residents? If you find that ad to be too offensive to allow you to get on a bus that bears it, I’ve got a suggestion for you: walk.