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Aug 21 2012

I’m just brainstorming here

Pat Robertson thinks putting up a pro-atheist billboard is just like putting up a billboard showing two teenagers having sex.

Dave? Dave Silverman? Boy, do I have a great idea for an atheist billboard now.

104 comments

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  1. 1
    jeromehaltom

    Shit. Are you seriously going to make me defend Pat Robertson? Damn. That’s low. Sigh.

    He didn’t say he thinks they are the same thing. He said that a private company has the rights to not put up a billboard of two teenagers having sex. They therefor have license for what they do put up. Therefor, they have no legal obligation to put up this other filter: atheist billboards.

    He’s correct on that.

    He’s still a dipshit. Don’t get me wrong. =)

  2. 2
    jeromehaltom

    d/filter/filth/

  3. 3
    Bernard Bumner

    He didn’t say he thinks they are the same thing.

    Nor did PZ claim it:

    Pat Robertson thinks putting up a pro-atheist billboard is just like putting up a billboard showing two teenagers having sex.

    Robertson was clearly equating the depravity of such things, such terrible things – teenagers having sex, atheism, all very seedy and unnecessary.

  4. 4
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    They therefor have license for what they do put up. Therefor, they have no legal obligation to put up this other filter: atheist billboards.

    Actually they do have an obligation. They cannot be prejudiced against any client coming in the door unless the content of the message actually meets certain requirements, like two teenagers having graphic sex, to be rejected. A message by atheists is like most there stuff they put up. It doesn’t fall into the excluded categories, except in the minds of delusional idjits like PR. It is protected speech.

  5. 5
    jeromehaltom

    Maybe I misinterpreted the phrase “just like”. He didn’t simply say “like”.

    I think common interpretation of this phrase is what I read it as. Am I wrong.

  6. 6
    PZ Myers

    OK, how about if we have an atheist billboard with two consenting adults having sex?

    We could also mix it up a bit: some would be boy/girl, others boy/boy, and others girl/girl.

  7. 7
    jeromehaltom


    Actually they do have an obligation. They cannot be prejudiced against any client coming in the door unless the content of the message actually meets certain requirements, like two teenagers having graphic sex, to be rejected. A message by atheists is like most there stuff they put up. It doesn’t fall into the excluded categories, except in the minds of delusional idjits like PR. It is protected speech.

    Correct. They cannot discriminate on the client. But they can discriminate on the message. That makes it hard to determine legally what they are actually discriminating against, the client or the message, but they are still free to discriminate against the message.

  8. 8
    jeromehaltom

    Hey. I don’t want to defend Pat Robertson. And I wish ya’ll would stop making me. He’s a moron for thinking that atheism is filth. But we knew he thought that. That’s not surprising.

    The point he’s trying to make, which I think he did make, was that the First Amendment is unrelated to this. That’s true. If there’s ANY argument, such as that posited by Nerd of Redhead, it’s going to be with regards to the Civil Rights Act.

  9. 9
    =8)-DX

    How absurd. I mean what with abstinence-only education, surely teenagers having sex is just a myth?

  10. 10
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    jeromehaltom, if that billboard company ever put up a sign from a religious group about religion, it simply cannot refuse the atheist message. You see, at that point they run into the problem that SCOTUS has said for for anti-discrimation laws, atheism is considered a religion for the purposes of the law. The company can only refuse all religious billboards as policy, it can’t pick and chose what religious billboards it accepts.

  11. 11
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    but they are still free to discriminate against the message.

    Unevidenced OPINION *POOF* dismissed without citation. Read the laws.

  12. 12
    Randomfactor

    The point he’s trying to make, which I think he did make, was that the First Amendment is unrelated to this.

    I suspect that the billboards are only there by government permit and under government regulations. I see an argument equivalent to the “public airwaves” one. (Yes, I know the Fairness Doctrine is long gone.)

  13. 13
    Ing

    If you don’t like defending Pat…dont

  14. 14
    peterh

    Now, if the billboard displayed his preferred type of “garbage” and someone objected to it, he’d quickly be having 13 kinds of a square-edged fit. The government thing and the 1st Amendment thing are obfuscation; the idiot has found another imaginary stump from which to spew his soft-spoken hate.

  15. 15
    holytape

    Is it me or is Pat Robinson sounding more and more like a drunk Bill Cosby?

  16. 16
    jeromehaltom

    You’re inventing case law now. The Civil Rights Act has never, in my knowledge, been used to enforce anything such as what you’re claiming. It prevents businesses from denying equal access to individuals based on protected categories OF THAT INDIVIDUAL.

    It does not say that the message itself is relevant.

    Since you’re the one arguing that the law actually covers this case, I believe the burden of proof is on you to provide an example of case law that shows it.

    I’m saying that it doesn’t cover it. Which to me is the default position based on the language, up until the point where case law alters it.

  17. 17
    jeromehaltom

    To quote:


    (a) All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

    Again, if this interpretation is different, I’d appreciate seeing case law that extends it. Because I haven’t. And I try very hard to keep up with these things. In fact, I just went and tried to find a case similar.

  18. 18
    jeromehaltom

    Either way, Robertson was correct: The First Amendment is not related to this in anyway.

    And sorry, simple government involvement in like, permits, has no bearing. The KKK’s meeting halls have government permits (code/safety compliance), and that doesn’t prevent them from using them for their own purposes of discrimination.

  19. 19
    Hatchetfish

    For fuck sake, go read the discussions on the gelato-bigot, the golfers who pearl clutched over Dawkins, and if vague memory is correct, several different bus companies who couldn’t handle reality, and figure it out.

    We need a FAQ on this shit it seems like.

  20. 20
    eean

    Is PZ trolling us by posting a video of Pat Robertson making a cogent point? lol.

  21. 21
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    It does not say that the message itself is relevant.

    Citation needed that you are right. You are wrong until you cite yourself right.

    You aren’t grasping the concept of commercial law as it applies to folks who put up billboards or sell ad space. They can’t control content (message) except by narrow well-defined parameters, and if they put up republican billboards, they can’t refuse to put up democratic billboards. Likewise, they can’t put up billboards saying god exists and not put up billboards saying the deity is imaginary. They can’t control the message that way.

  22. 22
    jeromehaltom

    Citation needed? I cited the actual law. That’s the best I can do for you.

    You keep saying they can’t do things. Those are truth claims. I’m simply not accepting those claims. YOU are the one with the burden of proof on those claims.

    And how does the Republican/Democrat thing even enter into this? Those are not even protected categories under the Civil Rights Act. There’s less legal basis for that than the religious question!

  23. 23
    jeromehaltom

    For fuck sake, go read the discussions on the gelato-bigot, the golfers who pearl clutched over Dawkins, and if vague memory is correct, several different bus companies who couldn’t handle reality, and figure it out.

    The gelato case is very different, as they were denying equal good and services to individuals themselves based on characteristics of the individuals. That is clearly what the Civil Rights Act prohibits.

    The Wyndgate Country Club case the CFI is involved is also a different thing: as the owner himself stated that he did not want to be “…associated with those individuals…” He opened himself to a Civil Rights Act violation with those words. Without those words, the best they could probably get him for would be breaking a contract; though maybe they could have built a loose case that he was discriminating against atheists themselves: and not the message being presented.

    As to the bus ads: Name me one private bus company that has been successfully prosecuted (under the Civil Rights Act) for refusing to run atheist ads. I’m not aware of any. What I *am* aware of is city-owned bus services that have successfully been cowed into their ad practices to avoid First Amendment violations. Which actually applies, because they are city owned.

  24. 24
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I cited the actual law. That’s the best I can do for you.

    You cited anti-discrimination law (which does also apply to the people engaged in commercial tranactions with the public), but not the laws governing the use of billboards and other advertising media. Here’s the thing, the provider is a vehicle for distibuting the message, not the message itself. And they must either be open to all reasonable messages or close up shop. You haven’t cited the law where they are allowed to censor messages just because the clients message says god is imaginary. Case law is to the contrary. You haven’t demostrated you are right. Therefore, you are still wrong.

  25. 25
    scottplumer

    By Pat’s logic, a racist billboard owner could refuse an ad depicting blacks or Latinos. Would that be legal? Could an atheist billboard owner refuse a religious billboard? (If only…) Or on the flip side, couldan atheist billboard be considered obscene on the grounds that it violated community standards?

  26. 26
    jeromehaltom

    And Nerd of Redhead: You referenced a bunch of narrow guidelines. Please refer me to those narrow guidelines. I’m not aware of where they are.

  27. 27
    jeromehaltom

    Nerd of Redhead, I do not need to cite a law that ALLOWS something. Things are ALLOWED by default until prohibited by law. You need to cite the law that DISALLOWS something.

  28. 28
    skeptifem

    LOL way to pick an inconsequential comparison, pat. No one but old obsessed weirdos give a shit that teenagers have sex with each other.

  29. 29
    Hatchetfish

    So, lemmee get this straight. You’re saying the following exchange, between say, a white customer who happens to care about discrimination against african americans, and a billboard company, is totally fine within the Civil Rights Act, because they’re objecting to the message, and not the customer’s characteristics:

    Customer: “We’d like it to say ‘Equality and civil rights for African Americans NOW’”

    Company: “No, that message is to strident, you need to tone it down”

    Customer: “How about ‘Equality and civil rights for African Americans’?”

    Company: “No, see, it’s very partisan, we just can’t support that.”

    Customer: “Equality and civil rights for all?”

    Company: “No, no, you’re just not getting it. We object to the message of civil rights for all. We don’t object to you as a customer at all though. How about ‘The confederacy: Working to protect the god given natural order since 1861′? We won’t object to that message.”

    Somehow, well, I just don’t see it. And I’m pretty sure it’s because you’ve got your head up your ass inventing an interpretation of the law.

  30. 30
    Amphiox

    Suppose the law really is such that private billboard owners can discriminate against the contents of the messages such that they can refuse atheist messages.

    All that means is the law is unjust, should be opposed by active civil disobedience, and ultimately changed.

  31. 31
    jeromehaltom

    And since radio was mentioned: A Christian radio station can reject an atheist ad. Or any ad that is non-Christian. But only because they do not want to run the message: they cannot do so on the basis of the individuals seeking to run the message.

  32. 32
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    @jerome
    I think perhaps what you might be missing here (at least from a Canadian context–I’m assuming much of Canadian law is reflective of U.S. law and vice versa) is that the message can NOT be discriminated against if it doesn’t fall afoul of hate speech or obscenity laws. Content outside of those red flag categories just don’t enter into the decision.

    Or not. I’m not up on U.S. rights, but I’d be somewhat astonished if the laws were much different.

  33. 33
    jeromehaltom

    Hatchet, yes I am saying that. Rush Limbaugh (among others) does it all the time.

  34. 34
    jeromehaltom

    silomow, things are absolutely different in Canada. I speak regarding the US alone.

  35. 35
    jeromehaltom

    Amphiox

    That is a perfectly valid point. Though it would still be one I would personally disagree with. But, as you stated, what should be the case is a different question than what’s currently the case.

  36. 36
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    A Christian radio station can reject an atheist ad.

    That’s interesting — we don’t have much Christian radio up here, so I wouldn’t have a clue about how that would work under the Charter.

  37. 37
    Hatchetfish

    So, explain to me how that doesn’t constitute a loophole that makes the law moot?

    “I’m fine with you as a persion, because the law says I have to be, but I just, well, I just don’t like any of your messages so far. Try something about fluffy bunnies instead of what you actually want to say.”

    Sorry, either the law is utterly gutless by way of that carte blanche loophole, or you’ve got the wrong end of the stick.

  38. 38
    jeromehaltom

    Hatchet,

    Because it’s never that simple. For example, in the Wyndhamn Country Club case, they have the words of the owner which establishes WHY he is discriminating.

    During an actual court case, one side would be seeking to prove that the other is actually discriminating against an individual, and not the message. And yes, this can sometimes be hard, and fail. In other times, it can be easy (if they incriminate themselves.)

    Is it a loophole? Hmm. In a way. And that’s why we have courts, to try to figure out the specifics of the case, and what the actual motivation of the defendants are.

  39. 39
    jeromehaltom

    The FCC does have a different set of guidelines, that I hope Nerd of Redhead was referring to, that seek to regulate the content of messages. But that’s regulating the content. It in no way establishes an obligation to air certain content.

    So, they may be prohibited from making racist or hateful comments: but they are not compelled to make certain comments.

  40. 40
    Hatchetfish

    Exactly. The situations can end up in court, with good chance of being proven a violation, because the message is directly related to the protected nature of the individual. In the specific case of atheist messages, it’s pretty damn hard weaseling out of ‘we object to atheists’ under cover of ‘we don’t do religion’ if you’ve run ‘we love jesus’

  41. 41
    jeromehaltom

    There is also state law that applies additional requirements. Most states have a parallel of the Civil Rights Act, some add additional prohibitions. I’d appreciate being educated if there’s some state law on the books that applies to the question at hand (billboards.)

  42. 42
    jeroenmetselaar

    Jeromehaltom: You miss a point completely. I will write it out carefully and in different ways so it may fit your mind.

    For an advertising company bringing out the client’s message is the product.

    The product an advertising company offers is the publishing of the client’s message.

    The product we are talking about is broadcasting the client’s message.

    Get it?

    If it is illegal to refuse to supply someone with your goods or services when you don’t like their religion than it follows that for a bill board company it would be illegal to refuse to put up billboards when they don’t like the religious message on those billboards.

    That is their product, a product they offer to the public. When they refuse to make it accessible to persons because they disagree with the religion of those persons (or the lack thereof) they break that very law that you quoted.

  43. 43
    jeromehaltom

    Hatchet, I don’t think so, actually.

    I think in most cases they aren’t actually discriminating against the individual: but against the message. It’s perfectly legal for them (again, as far as I’m aware), to want to promote Jesus, but refuse to promote atheism. And that’s frankly good enough without even entering into the question of whether they are discriminating against the individual.

    The nature of the case can totally change that though. For instance, if a black man attempts to buy an ad for, uh, toothpaste, and they refuse him; they can say they simply don’t want to endorse the toothpaste: but repeated patterns of the same actions, similar toothpaste ads run by white people, can all contribute to it being seen as discrimination because he’s black. The problem here is lack of a rational reason for the message to be the deciding factor. Toothpaste alone doesn’t really cut it.

    In the case of atheist ads, the religion of the individual is tied to the message of the ad. That makes determining the motivation much more difficult. It’s no longer as clear cut as “why the hell would you not run a toothpaste ad?” A rational reason for not running an anti-religious ad is pretty easy to come by: it conflicts with the message the advertiser wants to endorse.

  44. 44
    jeromehaltom

    jeroenmetselaar:

    You miss the point. You have to establish that the individual is the deciding factor, and not the message.

    “then it follows” isn’t going to cut it.

  45. 45
    jeromehaltom

    I would really appreciate a citation of actual case law here, if you want to correct me. I’ve read all of the important judgments regarding religion and the Civil Rights Act, and I’m sorry, I don’t see any examples of prohibitions like that being claimed here.

    If there are some, I need to know about it.

    What I do know is that there have been failed cases regarding religion on public airwaves. I have read some cases regarding Muslims attempting to advertise on Christian radio stations, and being flatly dismissed.

    I’ll see if I can go find them.

  46. 46
    jeroenmetselaar

    Nope. Reread the law again.

    “..without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

    It outlaws the discrimination on grounds of religion. It says nothing about discriminating the person or the message, just the discrimination.

  47. 47
    jeromehaltom

    You cut off the first part of the law. Not sure why you did that. You should put it back on. Here’s the full text again for you:

    (a) All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

    See that part that says that it refers to all persons?

    And also the part where all the other protected groups listed are attributes of a person? You know, race, color, national origin.

  48. 48
    jeromehaltom

    We call these “protected classes” for a reason. They refer to attributes of people.

    Here’s some more:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_class

  49. 49
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    I’m surprised no one has pointed out yet that most (if not all) U.S. jurisdictions have laws about public display of sexually explicit content. The billboard companies have a perfectly legitimate reason for rejecting images of teens (or for that matter adults) having sex: it would be illegal for them to post such an image. There is no such excuse regarding atheist billboards, however.

  50. 50
    jeroenmetselaar

    Jeeez man, can you read your own mother.. language?

    I will make it simpler for you.

    The law means that a company that offers a public service cannot withhold that service on grounds of discrimination.

    The bit that mentions the discrimination (at the end) says nowhere that this is limited to discrimination of persons. The word person is mentioned in this law (at the beginning) but is in no way connected to the discrimination.

    In short, non-legalese and cut for this purpose language: You cannot withhold service to a person on grounds of discrimination on religion.

    I also noticed that in your last sentence you deliberately left out religion: the one attribute that could be of a message. How low. This shows you are not entirely honest.

  51. 51
    Amphiox

    If a person cannot choose, freely, the message he or she wishes to say, without fear of the message being disallowed, when other people with a different type of message would not have that fear, then he or she is NOT entitled, as a person to the full and EQUAL enjoyment, particularly since the “service” in this case is specifically the display of a message in a public space.

    If you interpret the law the way jeromehalton suggests, then the law is basically useless.

  52. 52
    Amphiox

    The service that billboard companies offer is the display of messages as their client chooses in public spaces, within the restrictions on completely free speech existing in the law. If you do not allow the PERSON the choice of what the message says, you are discriminating against THE PERSON.

  53. 53
    jeromehaltom

    jeroenmetselaar

    I left out religion for a reason. Maybe you should read more carefully? Every thing listed (other than religion) is an attribute of a person. Therefor, religion is also likely an attribute of a person.

    Again, please cite case law for your view. Because the interpretation you’re advocating is not that sustained by current case law.

  54. 54
    Dr. Strabismus

    There was a news item back in 2005, about a Christian radio station cancelling a Muslim ad, but I don’t know if they ever went to court on it.

  55. 55
    jeromehaltom

    Amphiox,

    I’m not sure where or why you feel it necessary to define for the billboard companies what their services are. They are free to define their service at will, and alter it at will. As long as that service when offered does not discriminate between individuals of protected classes.

    You are right. You are discriminating against persons based on the characteristic of what message they want to present. Which is not a protected class.

  56. 56
    jeromehaltom

    I cannot find a reference to that lawsuit regarding Christian radio I mentioned earlier. I’ll keep looking. I’ve forgotten everything about it, and Google isn’t helping.

  57. 57
    Amphiox

    Absolutely no company in any industry of any kind has the right to alter what services it provides “at will”. How they are allowed to alter their services and when, and what sort of notice they have to give is regulated under contract law.

    A company has the right to determine what services they will offer at the start, so if they make it clear from the start that they will not accept religious or atheist messages, they can do that, and accept what the market declares regarding their reputation and sales once that fact becomes known.

    But otherwise they are obligated to declare, before sale, that they reserve the right not to post certain messages, and detail specifically what qualities in a message will prompt them to refuse it, they most certainly can’t accept an atheists’ business, take an atheists’ payment, and then decide after finding out that the message is an atheist message that they won’t post it.

  58. 58
    jeromehaltom

    Yes, they can. Sorry. Case law please?

  59. 59
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    It appears that jeromehaltom has a great fear of the the atheist message, but never says why he should fear it being out there in public, or why the public should be offended, or what is wrong with saying “you can be good without god”, or one of the other placards that have been used.

  60. 60
    Dr. Strabismus

    @Amphiox #57, Oddly enough, the news item I referred to in my #54 says the Christian radio station did just that. They had a signed contract, but they abrogated it when they decided the ad was attempting to recruit people to Islam. They returned the $300.

  61. 61
    jeromehaltom

    You’re wandering into contract law territory, and way outside of Civil Rights. Contracts can be canceled. The canceling side has to make the other side whole, recompensating them for whatever resources they lost while pursuing the obligations laid out under the contract (under most circumstances)

    For instance, if I have a contract with you, where I provide you a service, and you give me $300: I can cancel it. All I have to do is give you your $300 back.

    If we have a contract where you give me $300, and I schedule to provide you with speaking space, and you sell tickets to people expecting that contract to be maintained, and I cancel it: I will probably have to recompensate you for the money you spent on advertising and selling tickets to that event (and the $300).

  62. 62
    jeromehaltom

    Nerd, you’re fucking kidding me, right? I’m an atheist, and a card carrying member of the FFRF and ACLU.

    I also spend a lot of time working in law, which is why this subject is interesting to me.

  63. 63
    Amphiox

    There are legal avenues for getting out of a contract, as determined by contract law. But even if it is something as simple as returning the fee and having a form signed by the customer (why do you think such forms exist? When the customer signs he is declaring that he accepts the reasons for the termination of contract and relinquishes his right to sue for breach), it by no means can be done “at will.”

  64. 64
    jurekdedor

    jeromehaltom: I’m no lawyer, but I don’t buy this interpretation of yours. Basically you say that company is not allowed to discriminate against black clients, but would be allowed to tell them to replace black faces on the billboard with white ones because that is their policy regarding message – no black people.

    I’d like to see how far it would fly in court. And how fast…

  65. 65
    jeromehaltom

    I never said “at will”. Did I?

    My point was that you can cancel a contract. You can get out of it. And if it comes to a lawsuit, you’ll just have to make the other side whole.

    Which is to counter your point that a billboard company cannot have a contract with an atheist company, and get out of it. Because they can. They just have to fulfill certain obligations.

  66. 66
    jeromehaltom

    I think you’re confusing two of my posts. I said “at will” up above in terms of defining a service to be offered. That was unrelated to canceling a contract. Different subjects.

  67. 67
    Dr. Strabismus

    @59 Nerd.. “It appears that jeromehaltom has a great fear of the the atheist message…”

    Where the hell do you get that? Unfair, ussupported by any evidence I’ve seen.

    jeromehaltom has made a pretty able case for the idea that billboard companies have the right to discriminate on the basis of message. I haven’t seen him refuted convincingly yet. He has further stated from the beginning that he despises Pat Robertson. That doesn’t sound like fear of the atheist message to me.

    But, pardon me, I’m sure he’s well capable of defending himself.

  68. 68
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Jeromehaltom is definitely paranoid about something, or trolling to prevent a real discussion of the issues. Note that about half the posts are his. Not what is expected of a thoughtful, deliberate discusser of the real issues.

  69. 69
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    It appears that jeromehaltom has a great fear of the the atheist message,

    Sorry just don’t see that.

    He’s trying to make a different point. One I’m not sure I agree with him on but he’s, seemingly, not doing what you are accusing him of.

    At all.

  70. 70
    jeromehaltom

    Real discussion of what issues? I posted my first opinion about Robertson’s statements: and ya’ll responded. And so I answered in kind.

    Is there a different set of issues we’re supposed to be talking about?

    This is becoming a meta-argument. Boo.

  71. 71
    jeromehaltom

    And I’m absolutely still willing to be convinced that what I say is incorrect. But it’s going to require presenting actual case law where the Civil Rights Act was interpreted as mentioned by one on this thread. Or simply a reference to a third piece of legislation not yet mentioned.

    Nor am I aware of any other laws or regulations that have the suggested effect.

    I still want to know about them, if they’re there.

    Nerd, you made a suggestion that there are various advertising standards that would control this. I’m absolutely interested in knowing what those are. After you mentioned that, I went and pulled the FCC’s regulations governing radio and did not find what we were looking for in there. But that does not cover all bases: state law, or regulations related specifically to billboards. If there’s a piece of legislation missing, again, I absolutely want to know about it.

  72. 72
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I also spend a lot of time working in law, which is why this subject is interesting to me.

    Fine, it interests you, but every other post (a sign of probable trolling according to PZ)? Give other people a chance to talk instead of dominating the discussion.

  73. 73
    jurekdedor

    The more I think, the more it seems to me that you can decouple the client from the message like that. The end result (what people hear) of identical message brought by different clients is identical, while different messages brought by the same clients remain different. Thus, essentially, for the purpose of this interaction, the message is the client.

    I can’t dress it in proper lawyer-talk, but in this situation it is the message that carries the protected “aspect” of client persona (his views, his religion etc.), not the guy who eventually pays the bill, since what he thinks/looks like/etc while paying is irrelevant – what the message says is what people will hear.

    Of course reading the law by-the-letter won’t give that, but I’m told that it is not all there is to law.

  74. 74
    Dr. Strabismus

    @68 Nerd: “Jeromehaltom is definitely paranoid about something, or trolling to prevent a real discussion of the issues.”

    Pfui. This IS the real issue: Do billboard companies have the right to refuse atheist advertising or not? It should be possible to come up with an definitive answer one way or the other by citing case law, as jeromehaltom suggests.

    I do know, for a fact, that local billboard companies where I live (Birmingham, AL) have done exactly that, and have not been sued, nor have they suffered any bad consequences for it.

  75. 75
    jeromehaltom

    @73

    A consequence would be that a Christian radio station could not refuse an Islamic or atheist ad. This isn’t legal rational, but it strikes me as fairly absurd. I don’t see Christian radio stations being actually sued over this. And I suspect one of the major Islamic groups would have brought a lawsuit at this point.

    They have enough money that they should be peppering Rush Limbaugh with ads promoting Islam, if it was possible.

    I mean, are we seriously saying we should be able to run atheist ads on the Trinity Broadcasting Network? It’d be awesome and hilarious to see, but it just doesn’t fit into what I think makes sense.

  76. 76
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    What’s really funny is that you have a video of an American right winger essentially saying that businesses should practise self-regulation. Regulation? Of private commerce?! That sounds like some Commie claptrap to me, I tell you whut!

    I’m also struggling to see the problem with using teenage fucking as an ad campaign, as long as it’s realistic teenage fucking and not some sanitised version. Two nervous kids yelping and fumbling around on mummy and daddy’s couch while the parents are away seems like an ideal campaign for sex ed classes or something.

  77. 77
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    @jerome,

    Interesting discussion. I hadn’t realized the laws regarding content and discrimination were so different when comparing both sides of the 49th parallel. So, thanks.

    In Canada, an owner of media (like a billboard company) that enters into a contract with a client but cancels said contract for reasons that don’t involve hate or obscenity could easily see itself hauled up in front of a provincial Human Rights Tribunal. And the HRT can deliver some serious pain to a defendant in the form of monetary compensation to the plaintiff. The trouble here is that the HRT has fairly vague rules that are backed by adjudicative authority that can’t be appealed!

    This is just an aside, for the sake of comparing the U.S. and Canada.

  78. 78
    frankb

    Jereonmetselaar #42 is quite correct IMHO. The billboard company is offering a service to the public. Atheists can not be turned away unless all religion is singled out before hand. The message can not be turned away unless there is some other criterion sited. That is essence of civil rights laws. Jeromeholtom is really missing the boat.

    I wish commentors would have simpler user names.

  79. 79
    jeromehaltom

    If you guys are right, I suggest we begin a fund immediately to put atheist ads on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

  80. 80
    jeromehaltom

    @78 I’m talking about what is the legal case, not about what should be the legal case; nor what the moral case is.

  81. 81
    Dr. Strabismus

    @78 Frankb: “The billboard company is offering a service to the public. Atheists can not be turned away unless all religion is singled out before hand.”

    I wish that were true. I suspect, in fact, I’m pretty sure, that it is not. I KNOW that atheists have been turned away, right where I live, by billboard companies that put up church ads all the time.

    One of the things we atheists are about is rejecting truth-claims based on wishful thinking.

  82. 82
    Dr. Strabismus

    @ jeromehaltom If you guys are right, I suggest we begin a fund immediately to put atheist ads on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

    I’d pay a dollar for that!

    // Temporarily unemployed, or I’d go higher.

  83. 83
    jeromehaltom

    Or we can buy an ad on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. That’s at least topical.

  84. 84
    anbheal

    Two things:

    1) We’re assuming the billboards are a commercial enterprise. I drive across country with exhaustive regularity, and my guess is that half the billboards in Dixie and the Corn Belt are put up on private property, and that their “Jesus Is King” and “Repent Now, Unbelievers!” mantras are the owners’ particular axes to grind.

    2) And I’ve gotta give jeromehalton some considerable leeway in his premise — if, state by state and at the federal level, we’re enacting or contemplating laws allowing employers to impose their Christianity on women or gay workers, or students to choose what they agree to be tested on, ad nauseum, then I’ve got to assume that there’s a whole lotta state regulation that subverts various civil rights statutes, and lets companies do what they bloody well please, so long as it doesn’t flagrantly violate the EXACT LETTER OF THOSE GODLESS LIBERAL REGULATIONS.

  85. 85
    vyyle

    Funny… I don’t seem to remember anyone getting upset and demanding that billboard companies refuse their paying customers service over the repugnant billboards informing us all that we were all going to die horrendously at the hands of a mad supernatural tyrant.

  86. 86
    Amphiox

    Or we can buy an ad on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. That’s at least topical.

    Someone really should try that, actually. If it slips through it will certainly result in something interesting to observe.

  87. 87
    Amphiox

    So, how are we all enjoying the Pharyngula Echo(TM) Chamber, where all the minions mindlessly toe the ideological line as dictated by PZ the almighty one, and dissenting opinion viciously* purged with clockwork efficiency?

    *(I almost wrote “viscously”….)

  88. 88
    PZ Myers

    Well, my ideological line in this post was to make a joke about a silly stupid thing Pat Robertson said, not to debate points of law. So yeah, in that sense, there are a lot of people here dissenting from my party line.

  89. 89
    Dr. Strabismus

    @83 jeromehaltom Or we can buy an ad on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. That’s at least topical.

    Splendid! Here’s the pitch. Opening shot, two teenagers making love on a couch. Tastefully (darkened room, but it’s obvious what they are doing). Moaning in ecstasy, “Good, so good, oh good, gooood!”

    Then the voice-over, and title at bottom of screen. “You can be good without God. Millions are.”

    What do you say?

  90. 90
    jeromehaltom

    I’d say it’s absurd to expect that we can legally do such a thing. =)

  91. 91
    shadow

    @ jeromehaltom :

    IANAL, so I can’t cite case law directly, just from observation on what has happened in Washington State.

    1> There is a billboard, adjacent to I-5 between Seattle and Portland, OR. It exclusively has religious or RW political messages. It is on private property, and the owner, as far as can be determined, does not contract advertising on it. It is just on the owner’s property (private land) and xe puts up whatever xe wants. That is their right and there is nothing any outside group can do. Private property, not open for rent as a good or service.

    2> Seattle Metro had to return money to an Islamic group who wanted to post messages on bus routes, against foreign aid to Israel. Metro gave back the funds and changed their rules to prohibit such messaging. I haven’t been on a bus, so I don’t know if they still have the religious tripe adverted. This is, from what I know, more a contract issue here. Metro did cave to public pressure from the Pro-Israel/Anti-Islam groups IIRC. Point is, to break/cancel the contract, they showed/claimed the ad was offensive to a segment of the population who threatened legal and extra-legal action.

    3> The Port of Seattle, running the airport (SeaTac) was forced to allow an atheist display during the XMas season. IIRC, they are going to DISallow all displays except ‘Holiday Trees’ (to keep it secular(?))from now on. Again, like #2 above, his is a government entity changing what is allowable.

    4> The whole flap about “Happy Holidays’ versus ‘Merry Christmas’ in public businesses. Many businesses went with the more secular greeting to keep business. No law suits required, but I doubt there would have been any that could have won. It was a business decision to offend the non-xians. The xtians were still offended, though.

    Basic point: Public entities (buses, airports) can regulate what types of items can be displayed, but have to apply the criteria uniformly. Private entities can refuse service/access based on their own regulations. From what I know, which is from an old business law class, Trinity broadcasting CAN refuse ads from atheist organ — they’d just say the content/message is against their founding principles.

  92. 92
    berylmaclachlan

    Since this keeps coming up, I’d like to point out that federal anti-discrimination law is much narrower than most people imagine. They know that the (federal) Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination by “places of public accommodation,” but assume that that phrase applies to essentially any business. In fact, it applies primarily to businesses that are physically open to the public and not all of them. Here’s the relevant section of the civil rights act (2 U.S.C.A. § 2000a):

    (a) Equal access
    All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

    (b) Establishments affecting interstate commerce or supported in their activities by State action as places of public accommodation; lodgings; facilities principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises; gasoline stations; places of exhibition or entertainment; other covered establishments
    Each of the following establishments which serves the public is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of this subchapter if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action:

    (1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests, other than an establishment located within a building which contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and which is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as his residence;

    (2) any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment; or any gasoline station;

    (3) any motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium or other place of exhibition or entertainment; and

    (4) any establishment (A)(i) which is physically located within the premises of any establishment otherwise covered by this subsection, or (ii) within the premises of which is physically located any such covered establishment, and (B) which holds itself out as serving patrons of such covered establishment.

    As should be clear, this does not apply to anything that does not sell things at a discernible location or offer entertainment at a discernible location. State civil rights laws are typically much stronger, but they vary wildly, so its hard to make good generalizations about them.

    It’s pretty clear that anti-discrimination laws that started to require a business to promulgate undesired messages would run afoul of the first amendment. If I’m a farmer, and I let Mail Pouch Tobacco paint an ad on my barn roof because I like Mail Pouch Tobacco, I’ve turned my barn roof into a commercial billboard. Maybe someone would say that that requires me to take an ad from Chic-Fil-A, which I don’t like because I don’t like the CEO’s religion. That looks a lot like forced speech, though.

    (Oops, not my normal online identity.)

  93. 93
    carlie

    Then there was the case where a church used the billboard “There is no God – don’t believe everything you hear”, and then an atheist group tried to put up the same billboard with the same company (Lind), and was told their billboard was inflammatory and offensive even though it was the exact same text.

    If you google “can billboard companies deny service first amendment”, the very first hit is this one. Heh.

  94. 94
    qwerty

    A brief search and most billboard censorship is against gays (even for informative safe sex billboards) and a lawsuit in Arizona for prohibiting billboards that advocate the freedom to bear arms (why isn’t this surprising). Even NYC nixed an anti-abortion ad sponsored (no surprise) by a pro-life Texas group.

    Anyhow, Robinson, as PZ is trying to pointout, is an idiot who thinks atheism on a billboard is just as bad as teenagers having sex on a billboard. A doofus thought.

    After watching the clip, I watched another Robinson clip on how our I-35 freeway is going to be god’s freeway in middle America. More idiocy. Of course, Pat gets it wrong in that he states I-35 goes to Canada, but it ends in the north at Duluth which is about 100 miles from the border. More stupidty.

  95. 95
    jeromehaltom

    @91 You have confirmed what I’ve been saying.

    @92 I agree. We never got into defining a public accommodation, since everybody was arguing over the other half of the law. =/

  96. 96
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    They Pharyngula party line, Pullet Patrol™ style.

  97. 97
    berylmaclachlan

    Since I have the right bit of the U.S. Code up on my computer, it may be worth explaining why people think that protections are a lot broader than they are. First, the code has specific protections for all the protected classes against discrimination in employment and housing. Also, § 1981 prohibits all discrimination in the making of contracts, but that applies only to racial discrimination. So you can’t refuse to make a deal with someone because of race, but other forms of discrimination may be ok.

  98. 98
    frankb

    Per comment #92. The narrower definition of “public accommodation” makes sense. I stand corrected.

  99. 99
    jeromehaltom

    The whole public accommodation thing is why I’m curious where the CFI/Dawkins lawsuit will go. They’re alleging that the country club discriminated against hosting Dawkins because he was an atheist. If in fact they are a “public accommodation”, then it’s a pretty clear violation. But if they’re not, then it’s not.

    And I’ve not been able to find any similar cases that apply the Civil Rights Act to like establishments.

  100. 100
    frankb

    When Pat urges private businesses to squelch offensive messages, he is forgetting that it cuts both ways. Righteous Lifers are hollering about private businesses removing their Godly offensive messages. It’s nice that Pat is pointing out that they have a right to do that.

  101. 101
    robster

    Would the ol’ Pat object to some truthful billboards that show his priestly offenders chasing after 12 year olds for a bit of nookie? They could put a big red cross over the offending bits while selling the truth that those in dog collars are collective crooks and in no way should be allowed within a metre of children, even the over 12′s.

  102. 102
    berylmaclachlan

    Any links for the specific facts of Richard Dawkins/CFA? (A complaint or something?) From what I remember, that could be straight breach-of-contract matter. Even if the contract gave the country club a lot of leeway to to pull out of the contract, its reason for pulling out might make some difference. Depending on, well, lots of things, it might well matter whether it acted reasonably and/or in good faith.

    I should probably return to my regularly scheduled business, but I’d be curious to take a look.

  103. 103
  104. 104
    shuckstuck

    I’ve decided I’m going to have one and only ever one response to asinine crap like this kind of mark-missing…… ARSE!

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