Atheists sue Central Arkansas Transit over bus ads

    9:21 AM, Aug 12, 2011   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason says On the Move Advertising and the Central Arkansas Transit System is denying their First Amendment right to free speech.

    The coalition claims CATA refused to run its ads on Little Rock city buses due to the content of its message.

    The United Coalition of Reason is a national organization of loosely-knit atheists, agnostics and free thinkers. They recently developed a chapter in Arkansas and are looking to place an ad on the side of city buses that reads quote:

    "Are you good without God? Millions are."

    A message CATA's advertising agency says has a history of causing thousands of dollars of bus vandalism in other markets. The coalition's attorney, Gerry Schultz says CATA is being unfair.

    "They act like someone is going to hijack an airplane and fly it into a CATA bus and that is just not reasonable," says Schultz.

    Attorneys for On the Move Advertising say they have never denied the coalition's request for advertising. However, they are requiring a $36,000 deposit to cover any damages the buses may suffer due to the message. They say running the ads without this large of a deposit would be assuming too much liability.

    CATA's attorney Jason Stuart says the entire lawsuit is a publicity stunt and the coalition has threatened his client with litigation from the beginning.

    "Take an unreasonable risk or spend the money on lawyers. That was UCOR's position all along. So here we are. Now we're spending money on lawyers," says Stuart.

    Coalition members claim they offered a deposit of $10,000, but On the Move rejected it. They say they are pursuing legal action because the parties have still not come to a reasonable settlement.

    In Thursday's preliminary injunction hearing, they asked a judge to force CATA to run their ads without the $36,000 deposit until they can argue their case in court.

    The coalition's attorney called both the president of On the Move Adversting and the executive director of CATA to the stand, presenting emails they say clearly show discrimination. The coaliton pointed out that CATA has run ads for several churches in the area.

    CATA's ad agency says those messages never contained the word God, Bible or any message of faith. They say with the history of vandalism committed to that specific ad, it simply does not make good business sense to run them without a sufficient deposit.

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