LITTLE ROCK, AR - An atheist group is taking Central Arkansas Transit Authority to federal court saying the bus system and its advertising agency On The Move Advertisement are denying their free speech rights by rejecting a proposed advertisement. CATA says United Coalition of Reason is out for publicity.
The ads were to launch the new Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason (Central Arkansas CoR), a collection of ten area atheist and agnostic groups. The ads would have directed people to the www.CentralArkansasCoR.org
, inviting them to consider joining any of the groups in the coalition. But after negotiations with CATA broke down in March, UnitedCoR decided to sue.
United Coalition of Reason says it wanted their ad to run on buses going to and from Riverfest last weekend. It didn't happen. And they say that's because CAT singled them out.
The ad reads "Are you good without god? Millions are."
But the Coalition of Reason says it isn't good with the publicly funded Central Arkansas Transit Authority refusing to run the ad without special requirements. So the group is taking CAT to federal court.
"It’s really unfortunate because we have very little tax money to go around as it is,” LeeWood Thomas says. “The last thing I want to do is spend more of it on what should be plain as anybody should see, come on, its free speech."
The lawsuit claims cat required the atheist group to spend more than $30,000 in insurance because of fears the ad could lead to vandalism.
But Thomas says the group has had no problem with its winter solstice display
on the capital grounds or the "adopt a highway" sign on La Harpe in downtown Little Rock.
"We've not seen any vandalism,” Thomas says. “There's no reason to believe the bus ads would be vandalized either."
COR says it is not asking for anything unprecedented, citing faith based advertisements already on the side of Central Arkansas Transit buses"
CAT isn't talking about the case on-camera Wednesday but its riders are.
"Its up to the provider,” rider Don Jackson says. “CAT has a right to express who gets to advertise on their buses since they go everywhere."
"That would be fine with me, it wouldn't be a big deal,” rider Ron Flakes says. “If the taxpayer is paying for it, you got to go with it."
But right now the "good without god" ad isn't going anywhere.
Lawyers for CAT say they approved the advertisement artwork in March and that the problem now is between the atheist group and the transportation providers ad agency "On The Move", which is a for-profit venture.
Attorney Jess Wweere adding that allegations that CAT conspired to censor any group is false and that the atheist group's main objective is publicity.