Atheists sue Lackawanna County transit system over refusal to run ad
Posted by doctore0 on April 29, 2015
A Northeastern Pennsylvania transit system permitted churches to advertise on the sides of its buses but then refused to allow a group that doesn’t believe in God to place an ad containing the word “atheists,” fearing it would offend riders, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The County of Lackawanna Transit System repeatedly rejected the ads sought by the Wilkes-Barre based Northeastern Pennsylvania Freethought Society, telling the group it doesn’t permit advertising space to be used as a forum for public debate. The transit system also told the group its ad might alienate riders and hurt revenue, according to the lawsuit, filed in Scranton.
“It’s hard to advertise effectively if we’re not allowed to use the word ‘atheists’ to say who the NEPA Freethought Society’s members are or who we’re trying to reach,” Justin Vacula, the group’s co-organizer and spokesperson, said in a statement distributed by the ACLU.
“We just want to be treated fairly and allowed the same opportunity to advertise that COLTS has given other groups for years,” said Vacula, 26, of Wilkes-Barre.
The transit system allowed several churches — as well as a political candidate and a blog that linked to anti-Semitic, Holocaust denial and white supremacist websites — to advertise before the Freethought Society first tried placing its ad in 2012, the suit said.