Tales From the DART Side

Last week we noted that Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority has yanked advertisements from local buses that had been purchased by Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers after complaints from residents.

And apparently it wasn’t just “residents” who were outraged by the ads reading “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone” – so was the Governor:

Gov. Chet Culver weighed in on the controversial Des Moines bus ad that has been yanked after multiple complaints.

“I was disturbed, personally, by the advertisement and I can understand why other Iowans were also disturbed by the message that it sent,” Culver said.

The question will likely become a legal battle, Culver said. He deferred questions of whether the group deserves the same free speech rights as Christian organizations to advertise on the buses to the Iowa Attorney General.

Culver also declined to answer if he would also have gotten off the bus had he been a rider, but noted that he would have been offended by the ad’s message.

Despite the fact that they ads personally disturbed the Governor’s delicate sensibilities, it looks like they are going back up:

An advertisement promoting a Des Moines atheist group will be put back on buses, Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority officials said Friday night.

“By honoring the freedoms protected through our shared civil liberties, DART, like other businesses that accept advertising, will be in the position of displaying messages and images that may be controversial or uncomfortable to some, but legal and protected by civil rights,” DART General Manager Brad Miller said in an e-mail.

The decision was made after DART officials met with representatives from the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers group Friday afternoon to discuss the removal of the group’s ads from buses earlier this week.

The transit authority had asked the group to consider reviewing an alternate bus advertisement, but the group refused.

DART will also be updating advertising policies to clearly communicate its position to uphold both civil liberties and the protection of citizens from material that is obscene or profane, Miller said.

“The Des Moines region and the state of Iowa (are) developing a positive reputation as a place that accepts diversity, new ideas and is civil in its discourse of even the most controversial of topics – for example same-sex marriages. … It is altogether appropriate for our policies to keep pace with this progress,” Miller wrote in the e-mail.