Thursday, August 6, 2009

My email to DART.

I was too late to act on the Halifax Atheist Bus Ad Scandal. But since I have decided to engage in networking, I've decided that means I should be acting in all the future scandals that occur. So, the most recent one is in Iowa, where the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) ran for five whole days a series of ads. They looked a little something like this:

Apparently the locals found them to be very, very offensive. And down the ads came. I find this to be a blatant violation of freedom of speech rights, and DART, as an organization that holds the public trust, is required to uphold those rights. Here's what I emailed them:

Dear sir or madam;

I am writing to complain about your groups recent decision to remove advertisements by the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers group. While some people may have felt offended by the ads, I would like to remind DART that they are required to act in the good of the public trust; the public trust includes creating an open and welcome area for neutral advertising. This advertisement was not labeled aggressively in anyway - it was simply reminding atheists and freethinkers that they, too, have a community organization. While this community organization does not meet on Sundays, it should be afforded the same rights and advertising privileges as other similar groups.

DARTs actions in this case, including calling placing the advertisments a "mistake", is contrary to both good sense and a responsible holding of the public trust. I am offended by the suggestion that such a mild advertisment, targeting not people who believe in God, but those who do not and offering them fellowship, could be a mistake. I would understand offense if a more controversial ad had been run, but IAF specifically chose a neutral, community building ad in order to avoid controversy. The group is not interested in opposition, but simply in finding fellow people.

When DART supports those who claim this advertisement is offensive, they are supporting those who believe that the mere existence of an atheist or freethinker is offensive. There is no way that this sign could be construed to be offensive unless one believes the concept is offensive. According to the Pew Research Centre, 16.1% of Americans identify as atheists. Wishing a less offensive message than what was submitted to DART by the IAF is to wish silence; and a silent minority is an endangered one. I impore DART not to participate in enforcing the silence of a minority.

Title VI suggests that "The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority is committed to a policy of non-discrimination in the conduct of its business". While Title VI continues to state that this applies only to race, color, or national origin, it would certainly fit religion, or lack thereof, in the overall spirit of the title. If the IAF had run an offensive or attack advertisement, perhaps there would be a case for removing the ads. However, the IAF simply ran a message encouraging people to gather. If an group of atheists complained DART was running ads for a local church, would they be taken down? Please consider these ads to be in the same class as local church groups. People claiming to be offended does not mean the ads are actually offensive.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Benjamin Stonier

I don't expect a response. Us atheists should be SILENT, duh.


Jen said...

Very nice letter! I'm getting ready to send mine right now.

Veritas said...

I look forward to reading it, I hope you post it on yours!

whiterabbitdownthehole said...

That's funny cuz we DO meet on Sundays; it's the only time we can manage to get more than a few of us together. And we feel it's important to meet more than once a month because it is hard to get to know anyone with such long stretches between.

We truly appreciate all the support from everyone in the non-theist community.

Craig Carpenter

Ian Andreas Miller said...

Excellent letter!

I wish I could have participated in the Halifax protest. I couldn't make it!

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