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Bloomington Rejects ‘You Can Be Good Without God’; Lawsuit Underway

May 5th, 2009

REJECTED red stampBloomington was first on the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign’s list of places it hoped to run bus ads.  However, the city has rejected our campaign’s slogan, ‘You Can Be Good Without God.’ This is deeply disappointing to our campaign’s members; we all love Bloomington and were very much hoping to run ads in our hometown along with many other cities.

Following their rejection of our ad’s slogan, Bloomington Transit referenced their ad policy, which currently states that they may reject any ad they feel is ‘too controversial.’

However, we are not giving up. Today the ACLU of Indiana, on behalf of the campaign, is filing a lawsuit against Bloomington Transit on First Amendment grounds. No campaign donations will be spent on the suit.

Here is the filed complaint (PDF, 172 KB)

Here is the press release (RTF, 4.4 KB)

Meanwhile, we are moving forward with efforts in other cities, and we will be announcing more very soon.  We want to bring our message many places, and this rejection motivates us more.  If you’re like us and want to see a positive message about atheism in your community, please donate.  We still have a long way to go, and you can help us get there!

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

34 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Aaron  |  May 6th, 2009 at 11:46 am

    On one hand, it sucks that it was rejected.

    On the other, I think “too controversial” is at least a fair cop; whether or not it’s a valid reason to deny advertising is another issue altogether — but I’d definitely agree that the statement is controversial. :)

    Are there any comparable controversial ads running on any of the buses out there?

  • 2. Anon  |  May 8th, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Too controversial? Would a sign that says: “The Pyramids didn’t need to be built by Aliens.” be too controversial? Just because some subset of the population happens to beleive in a fairytale does not entitle them to be pampered. It isn’t even hostile. Would a billboard that says”

    If there was one that should piss people off it would be a billboard that goes:
    “Christians: 2.1 Billion
    Other: 4.5 Billion

    The others have it. You’re not going to heaven.”

  • 3. // popular to…  |  May 8th, 2009 at 6:20 am // popular today…

    story has entered the popular today section on…

  • 4. Brandon  |  May 8th, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Just saw this on the news!! So glad this organization exists!! Totally want to help out absolutely anyway I can.

  • 5. Agile Cyborg  |  May 8th, 2009 at 7:34 am

    As long as the company can prove that they are balanced in what they deem controversial the ad rejection will be seen as normal and therefore not likely to be something worth pursuing in court.

    Frankly, one has to wonder if parts of the US are injection-molded hunks of emotional plastic due to their rigid conformity to ‘pristine’ social ideals.

    The squareness is ruinous, almost.

  • 6. Scott  |  May 8th, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Maybe the trick is to make a big controversy over EVERY bus ad that is running on Bloomington Transit buses?

  • 7. Scott  |  May 8th, 2009 at 8:51 am

    If you can’t do ads on buses could you do them on billboards or newspapers or perhaps even a television commercial? Sky writing would be hilarious!

  • 8. Jake  |  May 8th, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I would **LOVE** to see this ad on buses in Ft. Wayne. I live nearby and go there frequently. I would be a very happy panda.

  • 9. John  |  May 8th, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I suspect the founding fathers never expected governments to own transportation systems or anything accepting advertising. But, the fact that it’s not in the private sector is certainly a plus, as it opens the lawsuit option. It’s a shame the city would rather waste money preventing an ad than gain money displaying an ad.

  • 10. Mark  |  May 8th, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Maybe you should back it off one notch and change the campaign slogan to: “YOU CAN BE GOOD WITHOUT THOR” or maybe “THOR IS NOT REALLY UP THERE IN THE SKY WITH A HAMMER.”

    Now those are statements even (most) Christians would agree with.

  • 11. steven  |  May 8th, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Jesus loves you all, just as much as he loves any Christian… God Bless.

  • 12. neil  |  May 8th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Is the goal of this organization to run bus ads, or argue in front of the Supreme Court about bus ads? Honest question.

  • 13. Michael D. Hafer  |  May 8th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I think Mark is on the ball there with his idea. You can still say the same message, but in a different way. Criticize a “dead” god like Zeus instead.

  • 14. yoff  |  May 8th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    who’s this jesus fellow you speak of?

  • 15. Charlie Sitzes  |  May 8th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    To say the ad is controversial is like saying coal is black or water is wet [is controversial]. Since when is the truth “controversial”?

    The National Academy of Sciences is made up of over 2000 of the creme de la creme of our scientists, over 200 of which have won Nobel Prizes. The fact that over 93% of them reject the notion of a personal god testifies to the plain truth that “You Can Be Good Without God”.

  • 16. Liz  |  May 8th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I’m a Christian. I think you rock; the slogan’s fantastic and you have absolutely got the right to put it up if you want to. What’s so bad about encouraging people to be good to one another? I also like that you do it because it’s fun and makes the world a better place, instead of doing it just because some book says so, or because you want to get into the afterlife.

    I wish there were more Christians in the world as loving and open-minded as you lot. Good luck with the campaign. I’ll be praying for you.

  • 17. AtheistBrit  |  May 9th, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Liz, for every time you put your head in your hands to talk to no-one, stop and think, you could be helping your kids with their homework/feeding the homeless/shopping for the elderly..etc…..
    I am loving and open-minded, just not deluded into thinking that without effort the world will be OK. Get off of your knees stand on your own two feet and do something to reach ‘paradise’ in our own time. I have faith in human nature, carbon, science and the future.
    Have you heard of the expression “Richest in the graveyard?” Learn a lesson, concentrate on whats in front of you, take the blinkers off.
    Good luck with the campaign anyway.
    I’ll be thinking of you

  • 18. Jenett  |  May 9th, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Wanted to thank Liz for her support. Although this message is controversial, it is a message that is good for soceity and needs to be heard. Thanks for realizing that, Liz. We appreciate your support!

  • 19. Revyloution  |  May 10th, 2009 at 11:24 am

    I have a question for you Bloomingtiners (Bloomingtists? Bloomingdites?) Has the transit company there ever sold advertising to any churches?

    To Neil, I would say that the advertising would be the goal, but that a court case would be very beneficial to help keep the wall up between church and state. Either direction is a win for secularism (mind you, not atheism, just secularism). The old adage that any advertising is good advertising is true. The bus adverts would get a good deal of press for very little money. The court case would reach far more people, but would be much more expensive. Either way, the message still gets out.

    Thank you Liz for your sentiment. I always appreciate moderate theists, as well as feel a small pang of pity. Your moderate views are slowly dissolving your faith. By this type of influence, soon Christianity will be nothing more than a weekend social club.

  • 20. CanadianMaple  |  May 11th, 2009 at 12:47 am

    How is it OK that this is deemed controversial?!

    We are basically saying that atheists CAN be good people. And they are saying that that is too controversial?

  • 21. Ken Karp  |  May 11th, 2009 at 8:20 am

    You sometimes equate “belief in god” with “religion” in your public statements. But as an Ethical Culturist I participate in a religion (a full blown, congregational religion with meeting houses, Sunday schools, pot lucks, etc) without reference to supernaturalism.

    Humanists, atheists and even “lite believers” believe in people! We claim all the nice community aspects that have evolved into religion and just jettisoned the mumbo-jumbo.

    So please be sensitive to us religious humanists.

  • 22. The House of Zot » …  |  May 11th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    [...] There’s such a campaign in Indiana, and they were just rejected by Bloomington Transit. Their statement, which I found via Unreasonable Faith: Bloomington was first on the Indiana Atheist Bus [...]

  • 23. Indiana Atheist Bus Campa…  |  May 15th, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    [...] is in regards to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU in support of the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign’s right to advertise on city [...]

  • 24. Connie  |  May 15th, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    You can be good without God but that doesn’t mean that your going to heaven. You will still go to hell if you don’t have Christ in your heart.

  • 25. Chad Damon  |  May 19th, 2009 at 5:07 pm


  • 26. James  |  May 20th, 2009 at 1:54 am

    I Love Roman Lions

  • 27. Connie BooksherseattoHell!  |  May 21st, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Yeah nice Christ-like views there Connie

    Fundamentalist Christian nut jobs like you give Jesus a bad name!

    Oh I’m sorry what I meant to say Christian views give Christians a bad name. Personally I’d rather not go to heaven if they’re letting narrow minded twats like you in.

  • 28. The Gospel Truth  |  May 22nd, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Hmmm – The number one error people make is in thinking that what MAN calls good – God also calls good. This is because we live in a humanist age where even religious people forget God should be the focus and not man. More here:

    I’m against the message but because of this reason but hey – we all have freedom of speech so as if that’s the message some wish to proclaim it’s up to them…

  • 29. Becky  |  July 10th, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    So you are saying that just because a bus company does not want your saying on their buses you sue them and get your way? I bet your group was a terror in Kindergarten!!
    Seriously, I believe in freedom of speech; that is what makes America great. Your saying you can be good without God is true but you are missing the whole point of blasting Christianity. It is not all about “being good”. Many people are that way but will never get to heaven without accepting Christ into their heart. God made us all with free choice. We can accept Him or not. When you do you WANT to do good for the purpose of others. Those that do accept and follow His will for their lives fulfill their purpose on this earth. Those that follow Christ live for Him, those that do not, live for themselves.

  • 30. Mark  |  July 29th, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Saw this on the news today. Interstingly enough, the Collect for the 8th Sunday after Trinity reads, “Grant us, O Lord, the Spirit to think and do always such things as are right, that we, who cannot do anything that is good without You, may be enabled by You to live according to Your will; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

  • 31. Chris  |  July 30th, 2009 at 9:25 am

    I’m confused here. The ACLU is filing a lawsuit because a municipal authority WON’T put a religious view on the side of their vehicles? This is insane.

    Atheism is a religion–don’t try to fight that.

    “A Christian cross that is fully visible from a public sidewalk is constitutionally protected when placed in front of a church. But if that same cross were moved across the street and placed in front of city hall, it would violate the Constitution. The issue is not “religion in the public square” – as the rhetoric misleadingly suggests – but whether the government should be making decisions about whose sacred texts and symbols should be placed on government property and whose should be rejected.”

    So, a religious slogan slapped on the side of a municipal, PUBLIC OWNED bus somehow doesn’t count anymore?

    And before you start calling me some bible-thumping nut, I happen to agree with that ruling that resulted in the ten commandments being taken down, and if you can’t see the hypocrisy in this story, you’re an idiot.

  • 32. Leilani  |  July 30th, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I think some Christians are taking this a tad too personal. We aren’t attacking Christianity, we are spreading a positive message about our beliefs. You have the right to feel the way you feel, but please stop spreading your negativity. “I contend that we are both Atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

  • 33. 4Him  |  September 18th, 2009 at 1:08 am

    This slogan shouldn’t offend Christians. It is impossible for any human to be good. We all screw up and do things we regret and things that are just wrong. We all lie, cheat, steal, hate, and are bitter. Thats why it doesn’t matter about being good in the world, it matters about being saved. Saved by grace that we cannot earn no matter what we do. So since all you have is an opinion, here’s mine, None is good, no not even one. Is it worth being wrong about God? What do you lose in living your life for Him? If you want to live your life for pleasure, go ahead. And when you discover something is still missing, go to Jesus Christ. He is the only one in which you will find life and contentment.
    And you would be stupid to take this as judgement, as so many like to resort to. It comes from love that was given to me though the blood of Christ.

  • 34. CMon  |  September 22nd, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I just walked by a Bloomington Transit bus with the following ad on the side:


    How isn’t THIS controversial???? Oh wait, we’re in Indiana!

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