Partial Victory in Arkansas Bus Case

Judge Susan Webber Wright (remember her?) has ruled partially in favor of the United Coalition of Reason in a legal fight over whether they can purchase ads on public buses with an atheist message. The Central Arkansas Transit Authority initially rejected the ads, then tried to charge the group $36,000 for an insurance policy against vandalism, since such ads almost always result in vandalism from those good Christians with God-given values.

It’s only a partial victory, however, because while Judge Wright said that the agency could not reject the ad buy, she also said that they could charge $15,000 for a bond. I hope that decision is appealed. The government cannot charge a group to exercise their free speech rights based on the illegal reactions of others to their message.

And the good Christian folk in Arkansas are up in arms about even allowing such ads.

Christians in the community are firing back at the court’s decision saying the case has nothing to do with First Amendment freedoms.

Christian groups have created their own series of advertisements to run across city buses, the medium of choice for the battle of beliefs, it seems.

“Any bus that has these ads running across them will be picketed,” said Bill Wheeler, a Christian leader in Little Rock.

“We are planning to create a newsletter and start gathering our resources to fight ads that create chaos in our society. These ads have nothing to do with free speech. It has to do with corruption and pure evil. We will stand tall for our Lord and fight against this decision.”

Sorry, you authoritarian idiot. It has everything to do with free speech. You don’t get to decide who gets to express their views, no matter how much your imaginary god doesn’t like those views.

13 comments on this post.
  1. Chiroptera:

    Christians in the community are firing back at the court’s decision saying the case has nothing to do with First Amendment freedoms.

    Unless those ads criticized religious beliefs. ‘Cause recent commenters here seem to be of the opinion that being criticized or mocked is a violation of their freedom of religion or speech or belief or something.

  2. Pierce R. Butler:

    “Any bus that has these ads running across them will be picketed,” said Bill Wheeler, a Christian leader in Little Rock.

    Uh, Bill: How do you picket a moving bus?

    (Or is your surname a true descriptor?)

  3. Michael Heath:

    Ed,

    I was frustrated with your exchange with heddle in this thread since it ignored the reality that the religious authoritarians you described in the linked post do in fact frequently and unconsciously take positions equivalent to what you described as religious totalitarians. There is no clean, conscious break between these two groups with the exception of a mere handful of totalitarians. This blog post provides an illustrative example with Mr. Wheeler’s comment which you quote above:

    These ads have nothing to do with free speech. It has to do with corruption and pure evil. We will stand tall for our Lord and fight against this decision.”

    In addition we should be mindful of a key and defining attribute of fundamentalism, which is purity and the impossibility to becoming pure. People who are merely religious authoritarians who are also fundamentalists are constantly pressured from within and within their tribe to become ever more pure. So once victory is achieved on one matter the totalitarian-like thinking builds support for an incrementally purer position – even with no actual totalarians being involved in the debate.

    A major aspect of the framing used to achieve fealty to fundamentalism is the denial of reality; here it’s Wheeler and like-minded Christians who oppose the government protecting speech rights are even in play when in fact it is the core and arguably sole factor in play. So from this perspective there’s little difference between the authoritarians and the totalitarians, we get the same result. All that’s required is the denial of reality which fundamentalists of the Abrahamic religions prove more adept at than any other group I’ve ever encountered.

  4. Bronze Dog:

    It’s funny that a bunch of likely vandals (or at least, people who would likely condone such vandalism) who hate us for existing and letting the world know we exist are the ones who claim to be fighting corruption and anarchy.

    Oh, wait, that’s not quite funny. It’s sad.

  5. Eamon Knight:

    Picketing the bus? Ie: Not allowing it to leave the garage? Preventing people getting on?

    I hope someone’s ready to arrest them for hindering the customary and lawful operation of a transit service, and the right of citizens to use same.

  6. jaketoadie:

    So how helpful would it be to an appeal if the transit authority took those christian bus ads with no complaint or requirement of a security deposit against vandalism.

    In fact, since they think we atheists are such evil people wouldn’t they think that the christian ads would be more likely to be vandalized?

  7. John Hinkle:

    We are planning to create a newsletter and start gathering our resources to fight ads that create chaos in our society. …We will stand tall for our Lord and fight against this decision.

    That code-speak for get out your wallets and purses folks. Standing tall for our Lord ain’t free, people.

  8. FastLane:

    I only hope they plan on picketing the buses by standing, or better yet, jumping, in front of them.

  9. eric:

    It’s only a partial victory, however, because while Judge Wright said that the agency could not reject the ad buy, she also said that they could charge $15,000 for a bond. I hope that decision is appealed.

    If it’s not normally done, that seems illegal. But a bond for any & all bus ads would probably be okay.

    IANAL but I would think that the plaintiffs would have a good appeal case based on past history. If historically there’s never been damage to a bus due to the ads run on it, this request is speculative. OTOH if there has been damage to a bus as a result of an ad, then clearly the transit authority has ways of dealing with such incidents without requiring a bond, because they already have. Just do what was done last time.

  10. Gretchen:

    Uh, Bill: How do you picket a moving bus?

    If you live in Ft. Worth Texas, by hiring your own vehicle to drive around following the bus with a pro-God message on it.

  11. Pierce R. Butler:

    Gretchen @ # 10: … hiring your own vehicle to drive around following the bus …

    That might apply in Arkansas as well, sad to say. Hyperchristians seem to have a conceptual block as to why the word “stalking” might describe their own activities: ask any worker at an abortion-providing clinic.

  12. Erp:

    Bill Wheeler, the quoted Christian leader, is probably the Bill Wheeler who is Executive Director of Families First of Arkansas aka Families First Foundation of Arkansas which seems to be an anti-gay group (and not to be confused with Arkansas Families First which is or was a gay supportive group).

  13. Leni:

    Gee, you know what would make it fair? If the Christian ads were vandalized too. Then “everyone” could pay the extra fee. Right? Right?

    Or perhaps the fee should just be raised across the board automatically, since the potential for vandalism always exists. Punish everyone equally and use the proceeds to get some better security.

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