The Port Authority of Allegheny County is not exactly swimming in dough. Yet it rejected $5,700 worth of ads from a Washington, D.C., group that supports atheism.
The ads, which it wanted to place on 12 buses, depict a blue sky and white clouds with the words “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”
After its offer was rejected, the United Coalition of Reason sued the transit system in U.S. District Court, claiming that its free-speech rights were infringed.
The Port Authority has declined comment on the case, but the plaintiff said the transit system’s attorney indicated the agency doesn’t allow “non-commercial” advertising. The United Coalition, however, said the Port Authority runs assorted noncommercial ads, some from religious groups.
With this decision, the transit system appears to be siding with church-goers and against nontheists, whereas its stance should be neutral, as long as the message is not distasteful.
The Port Authority is not only rejecting legitimate ad revenue but also risking losses in court, as it did when it had to pay more than $345,000 following the rejection of a 2006 political ad from the Pittsburgh League of Young Voters. In heaven’s name, the agency needs a more realistic ad policy.