Yet more drama in the Halifax Atheist Bus nonsense

Apparently Lori Patterson has taken to sending out a form letter statement essentially repeating the very things at which people are pissed off. Mayor Kelly has washed his hands of the whole thing and is forwarding her letter. I have this letter and my response below.

Lori’s letter

I have advised everyone that we have a process through which our contracted agency books ads. If any potential ad message is deemed to be possibly controversial, they advise the transit system. The message which was submitted by Humanist Canada and was turned down was “You Can be good without God. (They are free to submit another message). We are a public transit system first, and sell advertising secondly. As a municipal service, we will turn down anything which we know will be too controversial or upsetting to taxpayers. This campaign was already known to be controversial in Britain.

It states in our contract that the contractor agrees that the advertising which is placed on the buses and at the Ferry Terminals will meet acceptable community standards of good taste , quality and appearance . Furthermore, the contractor agrees that the ads will not be considered discriminatory, or objectionable to any race creed or moral standard.

Lori Patterson
Manager Public Affairs
Metro Transit

My response

With all due respect, Lori (and considering your recent behaviour, that is not very much), it is your prejudiced policy that is in fact under debate in the first place.

Furthermore, several ad companies (ex: England, Toronto) in several countries (ex: US, UK, Brazil, and CANADA) clearly do not consider this “too controversial” to have the ad be seen. These cities clearly understand that is is more important to see a message you might not like, than not to be allowed to see it at all. You are using the few examples of prejudice in other cities to justify your bigotry and short-sightedness regarding running the ads in Halifax.

The fact that these essentially harmless ads constitute a controversy in Halifax, merely serves to emphasize the need for the campaign. Atheist and non-religious groups should not be silenced by a company exhibiting the same bigotry and hatred that leads people to complain about differing views than their own before the ads even appear.

Please do not continue to contribute to the same attitude that makes atheist and agnostics feel hated and alone enough to take these ads out in the first place. There is no reason why atheists stating their beliefs should be considered not in “good taste” unless there is a prejudiced attitude against this view. Further, the statement “You can be good without God” does not discriminate to race, creed, or moral standard unless you consider that view to be inherently morally wrong by your own standards. The discrimination is clear, Lori, and it’s not from the ads.

So you have a choice, Lori, to send your form letter absolving you of any responsibility because of your company’s rigid “policy” of prejudice, or you can stand up as a Canadian citizen and respect people’s right to free speech and free press according to our human rights charter. I you don’t, there may come a time when you have a message that some with loud voices don’t like, and you will be silenced as this group is now.



2 responses to “Yet more drama in the Halifax Atheist Bus nonsense

  1. Well, kudos to you for pursuing this. I’m amazed at the double standards in place for atheists. It ticks me off. If you wish, you can post a note I recently wrote Lor and Mayor Kelly.

    Hi Ms Patterson,

    I would like to add my voice to those who were deeply disappointed to learn that the advertisement from the Atheist Bus Campaign was refused on the grounds that it was “too controversial”.

    I am daily encountering signs and ads for things that, not only do I not agree with, but actually offend me. The add for Birthright that appeared recently on the metro property offended me. But I did not complain, since I recognize they have a right to exist, and to advertise as they see fit. With this in mind, I find your unwillingness to run an ad that simply states “You can be good without God” to be of incredible hypocrisy and I believe that your refusal to run the ad is a violation of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    I’m not going to waste your time going over why I imagine you think the ad is controversial, and thus why you have rejected it. But I will say that, if you can justify running ads like “Birthright”, then you had better be able to justify NOT running an ad like “You can be good without God”. You have your work cut out for you in this case.

    The point of the ad is to let those who are feeling an existential crisis with their religion know that they are not alone – I can only wish that these types of ads ran a few years prior, when I was most confused by religion. I didn’t know that I had a choice, at the time; I was held back by fear. I can only hope that ads like these will help give others the knowledge that they, too, have a choice… and thus maybe they won’t have to walk as hard and lonely a path as I did.

    This ad does not denigrate any religious beliefs. It is not offensive. It perhaps makes some fearful that they will lose those who of the religious flock who are harbouring some doubts to atheism. Atheism is not evil. Atheism simply means that you do not believe in a deity. Atheists are still moral, and, in fact, have a deeper understanding of morality than a religious individual does, in some ways, because we do not attribute our morality to a deity who tells us what is moral and what is not. We find it on our own.

    The only people who will be offended by the atheist bus slogans are the ones that feel their own world view is weak, and thus will be provoked into thought by the slogan.


    I’m not a great writer, but I felt inspired to add something to the cause.

  2. yeah, sorry, once again, as I read it, i realize how hopelessly non-eloquent I am… but hopefully it helps.