By CYNTHIA REYNAUD • firstname.lastname@example.org • August 8, 2009
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.
The advertisement, which reads "Don't believe in God? You are not alone," was removed from buses following complaints. Soon after, complaints started pouring in regarding DART's actions.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa on Thursday questioned the legality of removing the ads.
It also had asked DART to provide public records of all internal DART correspondence while processing the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers advertisement, as well as a formal letter from DART explaining the reasons for its decision on the ad.
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.
The Iowa Atheist and Freethinkers group also sent an e-mail Friday to Gov. Chet Culver, who said Thursday that he was offended by the advertisement and the message it sent.
"We are disappointed he decided to take sides on what we see as a free-speech issue," said Lily Kryuchkov, an Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers board member.
Culver was a douchebag...I don't think he's gonna get a second term. :-/