Thank you for your email regarding the recent advertisements that the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers had on some of the DART buses.
The recent controversy around the ad campaign that was accepted by our regional bus service has pointed out the need to update our advertising policies to better align with:
1) Our many other clearly stated policies regarding civil rights,
2) The state’s obscenity and profanity laws,
3) The diversity of a growing cosmopolitan region, and
4) DART’s objective to be the most progressive, growing transit system in the Midwest.
We never intentionally tried deny a person’s civil liberties and we are updating our policy to reflect our acceptance of advertising that is not obscene or profane (as defined by Iowa law). By honoring the freedoms protected through our shared civil liberties, DART, like other businesses that accept advertising, will be in the position of displaying messages and images that may be controversial or uncomfortable to some, but legal and protected by civil rights.
As a result, we are taking two actions you may have seen publicized:
1) The Iowa Atheist and Free Thinkers group ads that were contracted for and previously developed will be displayed on DART buses.
2) The DART Commission will receive a presentation from our legal counsel on creating a new DART advertising policy that very clearly communicates our position to uphold both civil liberties and the protection of citizens from that which is obscene or profane.
The Des Moines region, and the entire state of Iowa, is developing a positive reputation as a place that accepts diversity, new ideas and is civil in its discourse of even the most controversial of topics – for example, same sex marriages. DART demonstrated this same advancement on Monday by unveiling the first hybrid-electric bus in the state, so it is altogether appropriate for our policies to keep pace with this progress.
Regarding this issue, what groups choose to say or advertise may be of concern, but their right to say it – or in this case to advertise it - is a protected right. Our policy will be changed to reflect this stated belief.
The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority
Well done, Iowa. You did something wrong and owned up to it. I wish I could be at the next meetup of the IAF to shake hands and say congratulations.