Update: word usage mentioned in comments – Ed.
This past week we were hit with what many probably thought was a a set of odd ideas. This all started when DART (Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority… that is, the local bus company) started displaying ads purchased by the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers.
Of course, those ads could only be trouble.
Full disclosure: I am a born-again Jesus Freak of the 1st order.Â I don’t want any confusion on this point as we proceed.
Odd idea #1: Atheists would be so bold as to attack God (or in some minds, Christians).Â Today, we Christians are tending to be very sensitive to any kind of “persecution”.Â If only we knew what persecution really is.Â Personally, I was amazed that anyone actually made a fuss about these ads to begin with.Â I’ve seen a lot more evil on the side of a bus than this statement: “Don’t Believe in God?Â You are Not Alone”.Â Quick, Martha, hide the kids and load the guns!
No, this was not an attack on any person.Â I cannot even consider it an attack on God.Â It is certainly a very vocal expression of a group’s decision to reject God, but I think God’s pretty much accustomed to people not believing in Him, or even when believing, still rejecting His plan for them.
Personally, I thought it was refreshing to see people who hold a religious perspective that is so contrary to what I think of as the norm and Truth, to be willing to express their perspective and reach out to others who share it.
Odd idea #2: Atheists don’t have the same rights as others to publicly share their (lack of) beliefs.Â Although we have struggled over the past few decades to halt the erosion of our first amendment rights, it’s interesting that there was such a quick assumption that Atheists don’t deserve the same consideration as say, Christians.Â As soon as the outcry hit, DART reacted and pulled the ads.Â All kinds of excuses ensued.Â The ACLU jumped in.Â Heaven’s temple shook.Â Governor Chet Culver even expressed his opinion (he was “offended” by the message of the ads).
Unfortunately, the bus company has been smarting from recent pedestrian accidents that have led to policy changes and may lead to bigger problems… the media nightmare was getting worse for them now, and the apparent public sentiment was to pull the ads.Â Bad timing.Â Bad decision.Â It was making things worse, not better.
Odd idea #3: Bus companies don’t have the right to decide what ads they run or don’t run.Â Buses have limited advertising space, and I assume they sell the space on a first come first serve basis.Â Unless of course they don’t have as many ad clients as they’d like.Â Now, if they specifically targeted one group to block but allowed a competing group (say, Christians), that would probably be a problem (not sure if a legal problem, but at least a political one) .Â But if they decided to not allow ads for any religious group they might be okay.Â But I think we all know where that would go… a lot of ads on buses are for religiously affiliated organizations (many attempting to reach out to people with needs they can serve).
So, technically one might make a case that the bus company was within its rights to pull the ad.Â That, however, is not a case I would want to see fall in front of Sotomayer.
One caveat to that… DART, I believe, has been a beneficiary of government, especially Federal, money.Â Which totally kills their ability to act independently (DART may actually be government run, but I’m not clear on how that works).
Odd idea #4: Bus companies can’t change their minds.Â This is purely political silliness.Â Obviously, anyone can err and then correct themselves.Â The media frenzy over this has been no surprise, but people involved in trying to make a difference in the world need to focus on the real issues… and most of all the Conservative voices in our society need to stop pandering to unproductive religious polarization and accept the very facts that God himself accepts: not everyone is going to follow Jesus, and everyone begins apart from Him.Â Continuing to castigate DART only serves to make Christians and political/social Conservatives look petty and misguided.
Odd idea #5: The First Amendment is intended to serve the interests of God, that is, Christians.Â The Amendment reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I will restrain myself from entering an all-out examination of the purpose of this amendment.Â The point I wish to make is simple: there is no mention of God or Jesus or Christians.Â The same amendment that protects the rights of Christians protects the same freedom of expression for Atheists.
So, the end of the story is that the ads are back.Â Hopefully we can move on.