Sunday, February 15, 2009

"No God" bus ads rejected by OC Transpo

The Ottawa Citizen tells us that the bus-based atheist ad campaign that was on its way to Ottawa recently had its bid to place ads on buses turned down by OC Transpo.
The city has rejected a “no god” bus ad campaign, a move that organizers hope will serve as a rallying cry for proponents of free speech across the country.

“We need to get people as offended about censorship as they are by the ad,” said Justin Trottier, president of the Freethought Association of Canada.

Trottier's group was hoping to use Ottawa buses as part of a larger campaign to promote “principles of various world views.”

And why were the ads rejected?

The decision was made based on a subsection of the transit advertising policy which says that “religious advertising which promotes a specific ideology, ethic, point of view, policy or action, which in the opinion of the City might be deemed prejudicial to other religious groups or offensive to users of the transit system is not permitted. Religious advertising will be permitted if the information is designed to promote a specific meeting, gathering or event and the location, date and time of said event.”

No one from OC Transpo was available for comment Saturday.

So, readers ... Is rejecting the ads censorship?


Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I actually don't recall ever seeing religious ads on OC Transpo before so maybe they are really strict about that. Although I have seen ads for strip clubs on the buses so the line they draw between "offensive" and "okay" seems a bit blurry.
Too bad. The extra advertising money from the atheist ads probably would have helped offset the ever-growing deficit.

Thall said...

I don't think that it is censorship (as long as OC Transpo is consistent with their policy). It isn't that they aren't allowed to share their message or say what they want, they just can't pay to put it on the side of a bus - and that is OC Transpo's decision to make.

Interestingly enough, if the atheist bus campaign fights this and manages to win, it would not work out well for them as there are many more religious organizations (or theists organizations if you will) who have a lot more money who could run ads promoting their God. Interesting dilemma for them.

Anonymous said...

TD, I'm gonna have to disagree with you, it is censorship, even if they apply their policy consistently. Just because they don't let anyone make religious comments doesn't mean it's ok.

Now if this was a private company, I would say that they have the right to carry whatever advertising they like. But OC Transpo is a city service, not a private one.

Anonymous said...

I might be wrong but I could swear I've seen those Latter Day Saints ads on buses before. Again, I'm not 100% sure but I feel like I've seen them. Anyone else?

Anonymous said...

OC Transpo is happy to run ads for Alpha courses, which, as far as I can tell, are Christian recruitment sessions.

So yeah, this is censorship. OC Transpo is happy to show ads for one belief system, but not for another.

Take a look at to see the number of ads they ran in Ottawa.

Dwight Williams said...

Yeah. It fits the spirit if not the precise dictionary definition.

Peter Raaymakers said...

It's definitely a tricky call to make, and I don't really think there is any way to please anyone on it.

It's easier for a private organization that's entirely user-paid to downplay people's sensitivity about issues than a public utility such as OC Transpo, which has a responsibility to public morals.

An interesting comparison I thought of was whether or not an ad saying 'There is probably a God, and he's probably Christian' would be acceptable. Somehow, I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

I know I've seen religious flyers in the brochure-holders on buses. There's also more than enough "Birthright" adverts up (which, judging by the name and website, seems to be anti-abortion). Not to mention all the adverts for Catholic schools. So this whole thing about staying away from religion and politically-charged ads seems like a load of bull to me.

I'd understand if the ad said something like "God doesn't exist and everyone who thinks He does is a moron" - but that's not what it says. It says "there's PROBABLY no god." It's about as inoffensive a statement of opinion as they come! "I might be right, but you could be too." Yeah, that's right up in people's faces all right!

Anonymous said...

My own city councillor, Doug Thompson opposed having these ads on buses. He never asked his constituents their views. He might be surprised...

How do we get some action along with the debate: Petition to City Council to promote the ads?
Change the ads to engage people at a different level about science and humanity in general?
An organised march with our own banners claiming our views and giving us a voice?

Any leaders around willing to take that on?

Anonymous said...

Protest the bigots at City Hall on March 11th.

The Humanist Association of Ottawa:

Anonymous said...

As a devote Catholic I am upset at the city's refusing to let this group help fund our transit system through ad revenue.

I applaud the group for choosing to spend their advertising dollars in a way that helps poor and disenfranchies who are dependent more than anyone on the transit system.

I think those who are "offended" by such ads are weak in their faith.

Anonymous said...

The word PROBABLY was well inserted to allow the ad. Censorship exists everywhere, and it is a necessity in some cases. I am not offended by the ad. Just by the intent of the ad. This ad costs money. Atheists don't need to recruit people to belong to their non-belief system. If you don't believe in God, it must follow that you think people who do are very misguided or morons, much like the tribes that believed in gods of lightning. The intent of the ad is to offend religious people who do believe in god. Not to share alternate opinions. What possible reason can there be to convince people that there is NO GOD. even if there isn't one. Any way God was never the problem...we go out there and treat others as you would want to be treated yourself..and that's free, and its a start...