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Bloomington won’t defend bus system in lawsuit

May 15th, 2009

That’s right. In an article in the Bloomington Herald Times(the local paper in the city where our lawsuit was filed) today:

Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan said he disagrees with the BT policy and hes asked city governments legal department not to represent BT in court.

I felt strongly that the city shouldnt be defending on this issue, he said Thursday.

Bloomington Public Transportation Corp. operates as a separate municipal corporation, which contracts with the city of Bloomington legal department to provide legal services.

Kruzan said having city legal defend BT in court would amount to promoting government sanctioned censorship because the bus service gets city legals services at an hourly rate less than that of a private law firm, which is in essence a partial taxpayer subsidy.

This is in regards to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU in support of the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign’s right to advertise on city buses. You can vote on whether or not you support the ads at the Herald Times website.

Yesterday, WFHB, a local radio station, did a “Voices in the Street” clip covering the bus campaign. It’s pretty shocking what some people are saying about atheists. A quote from one man:

Ya’ll atheist people, ya’ll are gonna die in a burning pit of hell, eternal pit of hellfire. Good luck.

However, we weren’t without supporters!

They should have the freedom of speech, that’s what we were given in the first amendment, right? Every other company can do it; why can’t they?

Download the audio clip on the ads here, or go to the WFHB website to listen to the full Daily Local News segment. (Our section starts around 22:45 and goes to 27:00.) Go to 25:47 to hear the first quote above; go to 25:55 to hear the second quote.

A few people mentioned the sentiment that it’s the “city’s call, because they pay for the buses, and they pay for the fuel.” This is a misleading argument, because the government, of course, represents the people. The bus system is not a private company with the right to refuse any ad. Saying it’s the city’s call is saying that it’s the people’s call. And atheists are members of our community just like Christians and Jews and agnostics and Buddhists and Sikhs, and any and all other religious groups.

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32 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tom  |  May 15th, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Atheism is a religious view. It should not be promoted on public busses giving it implicit govermental approval. The FIrst Ammendment was written to prevent this. The ACLU is wrong to support this cause, they supposedly exist to defend, not attack the First Ammendment.

    Way to go Bloomington! Keep defending the First Ammendment from those ACLU bigots who want to force a religious view on the general public.

  • 2. Max Exter  |  May 15th, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    You make it sound as though the supporters were in the minority. I didn’t count, but I’d say around 75% were at least supportive.

    Kudos to WFHB for taking the time to cover this.

    – me -

  • 3. Tommy  |  May 15th, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color.

  • 4. sarah  |  May 15th, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Does the bus system implicitly support Coca-Cola products if that company advertises on the buses? More specifically, does the government approve of labor unions or the YMCA because they have ads on BT buses?

  • 5. Tom  |  May 15th, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Sarah – The First Ammendment does not state that the govt cannot institute an official soft drink, labor union or YMCA so this is not the same.

    Little Tommy – Bald is a hair style. It’s forced on some of us, sorry for our luck. Atheism is a religious belief, sorry for your luck.

  • 6. Tom  |  May 15th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    For those of you who are confused, the First Ammendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

  • 7. Aaron  |  May 15th, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Atheism is a religion like not playing golf is a hobby.

    Would the BT have refused an add for attending the First United Methodist Church? No way.

  • 8. Simon Gardner (UK)  |  May 16th, 2009 at 5:32 am

    This echoes official attempts at censorship elsewhere in the world – some successful (like Germany and Australia) and some not.

    It’s interesting that such censorship is even attempted in the US with the First Amendment.

    Atheist busCanadian Atheist busAtheist buses in Barcelona, Madrid & MalagaBus Kampagne, GermanyBus humaniste (français), Québec, CanadaCampagna Bus, ItalyDutch Atheist bus campaignFinland Atheist busSeattle atheist bus, USAWashington DC atheist bus, USAAtheist trains IrelandAtheist trams in Zagreb, Slovenia bannedAtheist Bus Madison, Wisconsin, USA

  • 9. Matt  |  May 16th, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Atheism is not a religion or a belief. Claiming it is a religious belief shows that people do not know what atheism or religion is. Atheism is a statement that there is no proof for the existence of the supernatural.

  • 10. Eric  |  May 16th, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Tom, why would the lack of belief in a supernatural claim that has no evidence need to be forced on anybody?

    It seems only plausible that the opposite is true. The only way to believe a supernatural claim that has no supporting evidence is for a child to be constantly subjected to such a silly claim before his or her critical thinking abilities have fully developed.

    Atheists believe things that have evidence. This comes very naturally.

    Not believing in a god or gods is no more of a religion than not believing in the tooth fairy or Santa Clause.

  • 11. quedula  |  May 17th, 2009 at 6:26 am

    Tom,

    In my dictionary “religion” is defined as a belief in, and worship of, a supernatural agency.

    This is specifically what atheists do NOT believe in (or worship).

    Your argument is not valid.

  • 12. Tony  |  May 17th, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Yah, and he said hair COLOR ya rocket scientist.

  • 13. Tom  |  May 18th, 2009 at 10:13 am

    In response to Eric’s question “why would the lack of belief in a supernatural claim that has no evidence need to be forced on anybody?”

    Atheism (aka “the lack of belief in a supernatural claim that has no evidence”) should not be forced on anyone, especially by the government. We agree!

    Logically speaking, atheism is form of religious belief, just as darkness is a form (the absense) of light.

    Religious beliefs like atheism should not be on the side of public transportation.

  • 14. sarah  |  May 18th, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Tom, ads on the side of buses do not imply government endorsement. Just because the first amendment doesn’t ban the government from endorsing labor unions or the YMCA, doesn’t mean that the gov’t IS endorsing these things when they (YMCA; labor unions) have ads on buses.

    It is generally accepted that they (the gov’t) do not take a position on whether citizens should purchase these products being sold. The same would go for an atheist or religious bus ad—the gov’t is not assumed to support a religion because a religious group advertises. The gov’t is not assumed to support the disestablishment of religion just because a group puts out an ad with a statement about, or related to, atheism.

  • 15. Tom  |  May 19th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Does nobody see the hypocrisy? Groups like the ACLU are filing lawsuits to take pro-theist ads off busses and filing lawsuits to put anti-theist ads on them.

    Buy a billboard to promote your beliefs, stop trying to find new and not so clever ways to establish atheism as the state religion.

    P.S. – Spare me your “if I can’t see it, it must not be real” arguements. Science could have never established the existence of the atom, the photon ot the electron with that kind of backward thinking.

  • 16. Tommy  |  May 19th, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    I feel the religious groups are used to having it all there way. I’m glad the push back has begun here in Indiana!! Non Believers are the fastest growing minority in the U.S. It’s time our views share the spotlight. YOU CAN BE GOOD WITHOUT gOD!!!

  • 17. Tommy  |  May 19th, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Science flew us to the Moon.
    Religion flew us into the Twin Towers.

  • 18. Jay  |  May 19th, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Lets get some things straight. A HUGE part of this is to get people to realize what Atheism is. It is clear that many people don’t even understand what it is. I am sure there are many people in Indiana that seriously think that Jefferson was a Christian when he was actually a Deist. These bus campaigns are to get people to look into and understand what Atheism is in the first place, after all, almost 20% of the US is non-theist. (For those that don’t know what that means, it is no religious dogma. So it includes agnostic, atheist, deist, and others.)

    @Tom – It goes far beyond, “if I can’t see it, it must not be real”, it goes to researching ancient cultures, understanding human psychology and sociology, philosophy, and how science works. In science something doesn’t exist without evidence. If there is a active God, he does things like answer prayers. The thing is, there have been many studies on that, and no statistical evidence has shown that prays changes anything beyond the a placebo effect.

    Without any recordable data change, there is no evidence. Without anything evidence, of something, it is not claimed to exist. There was evidence for atoms, tons of it, there is none for a dogmatic God.

    Going on to human history, we know for a fact that stories in the Bible such as Noah’s Flood was taken from the story of Gilgamesh, which was taken from the story Atrahasis, with about 30% of it being word for word. Atrahasis is the oldest known version of the story as well, and it is of a river flood, the guy build the boat from his house’s structure, and the only animals on board were his livestock.

    Then we have other stories too, like Adam and Eve that were taken from the Sumerians as well, but that is far more complex for right now.

    As long as churches have been allowed to advertise on these buses, then this should be advertised, but even at that, it is an awareness campaign of the fastest growing minority in the US. There are a bunch of groups that have spread lies about atheism for decades. From saying atheists worship the devil, to that without believing in a God that they just do what they want without any morals or ethics. I think the atheists have the right to get their view heard.

    I myself am a deist, and support what Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Paine, and many other key non-theist founding fathers were doing when getting this country started. I side with the atheists, because they actually look at the facts without delusion. Many of them are agnostic atheists, and are open to the concept of a god.

    Tell me this Tom, if God is all powerful, then he can create something so heavy even he can not lift it. If he can not lift it, then he is not all powerful, and if he can, then he isn’t all powerful because he can’t create something that even he can not lift. That is exactly why the concept of a God in the concept of what Christianity takes it is not plausible or probable.

    I think that we really need to teach people not only about atheism, but also evolution, abiogenesis (and the recent breakthroughs in it), physics, actual recorded history outside of the Bible, and the probabilities of things. There is a lot not understood by the average person in the US, and they hold back our development to go into the next era of technological, scientific, and the development of our civilization.

  • 19. K  |  May 19th, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    It is ashame what this world is coming to!! This is what happens when we take GOD out.!!I believe with all my heart and soul that there is a GOD!! You guys need to wake up to the TRUTH, THAT’S GODS HOLY WORD!! THE BIBLE IS PROOF THAT GOD DOES EXIST!!!

  • 20. v  |  May 19th, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Jay some of us don’t want to learn about evoultion and the stuff that comes along with that craziness! There is a GOD just look at the BIBLE. You may say that the BIBLE isn’t real but take dead sea scrolls for instance. They were even dated and not changed. Recent discoveries have proven that stories in the BIBLE are TRUE!!!!! So if you want to believe in the craziness go ahead but when the time comes I’ll be in HEAVEN with GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 21. James  |  May 20th, 2009 at 1:50 am

    K, I love you. Your comment however I thought was Straight Trippin!

  • 22. Charles  |  May 22nd, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Yes, Kruzan is awesome.

  • 23. Rob  |  May 22nd, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    I am very pleased with Mark Kruzan’s position. Bloomington is the one dependable place in Indiana that embraces diversity, tolerance and a secular world view. I am profoundly disappointed and more than a bit embarrased by the backward view of BT. It is time for them to relent and allow the ads to run on the buses.

  • 24. Sriram  |  May 23rd, 2009 at 9:59 am

    First of all Screw the bible. I am sick of idiots not bothering to think for themselves and doing this go-talk-to-the-bible defense. What about other religions? why should their made up stories be any inferior? Why isn’t the world run according to Harry Potter? The bible has about as much relevance and accuracy. It’s like saying Coke is better than Pepsi. What if I prefer water?

    Lack of belief does not constitute a belief in itself. I can believe that gravity doesn’t exist. Therefore accepting that gravity exists is not a matter of belief (because it can be proved to exist). The onus is on the believer to show that gravity does not exist. Same way with god or whatever supernatural mumbo jumbo. Atheists refuse to believe until adequate evidence in support of a belief is presented. For another take on this see Russell’s teapot http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot

  • 25. Tom  |  May 24th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    @Jay

  • 26. Tom  |  May 24th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    @Jay

  • 27. Tom  |  May 24th, 2009 at 9:12 am

    @Jay – how disappointing with your lifting arguement – didn’t Einstein establish a mass versus energy paradox?

    Also, my point is the hypocrisy here. I’m ok if busses won’t run ads for established churches too.

    All my best to you. What a great country!

  • 28. First Amendment Advocate  |  May 24th, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Mayor Kruzan, an arrogant pork and patronage politico whose “political career is steeped in the unvarnished graft and corruption that permeates Indiana state government,” is a

  • 29. First Amendment Advocate  |  May 24th, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Correction to former post (28) when it gets published!

    Mark Kruzan was elected mayor of Bloomington in Nov, 2003 and took office on Jan 1, 2004.

  • 30. First Amendment Advocate  |  June 1st, 2009 at 11:05 am

    It’s ironic and disappointing that INABC would “censor” this comment: http://www.wfhb.org/news/daily-local-news-may-15-2009

  • 31. admin  |  June 1st, 2009 at 11:44 am

    First Amendment Advocate,

    I can assure you that we do not censor any comments unless they are obviously spam. Otherwise we approve every single comment, as is evident from the many negative comments we receive (but nonetheless post) from religious folks. I do not know why your earlier comment was cut off, but it was likely due to something like malformed HTML, a bug in Wordpress, or you may have just not pasted the whole comment.

    While I encourage everyone to keep comments constructive and respectful, you are certainly welcome to say anything you like here.

  • 32. First Amendment Advocate  |  June 1st, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks for the response…and my apologies! Here’s the comment:
    ______________________________________

    Mark Kruzan: A “Convenient” and Hypocritical Civil Libertarian

    Mayor Kruzan, an arrogant pork and patronage politico whose “political career is steeped in the unvarnished graft and corruption that permeates Indiana state government,” is a “convenient” and hypocritical civil libertarian who specializes in speech-chilling tactics against his critics.
    http://www.bloomingtonalternative.com/articles/2007/02/11/8154

    His recent, high-minded anti-censorship remarks regarding the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign belie a shrewd career politician, who for his own political safety and longevity—i.e., promoting his public image in a so-called progressive college town where it’s easy and smart, if not de rigueur, to denounce THIS type of impersonal censorship—distances himself from one of the best things about Bloomington, i.e. Bloomington Transit (BT), while flagrantly violating the civil rights of individuals and organizations in Bloomington who have had the temerity to criticize him publicly.

    Indeed, Kruzan, who since taking office in 2004 has quieted many potential dissenters through time-honored and strategic disbursements of municipal monies, resources, and favors to scores of needy nonprofits on whose grateful boards these otherwise opinionated folks sit, has the distinction of having aggressively silenced his most vocal critics—in plain sight in a community where there are probably more constitutional law scholars per capita than in any other city in the country— in a bold move on February 14, 2005, better known as the “Valentine’s Day First Amendment Massacre.”

    In an bizarre twist of irony, the local, “progressive” alternative paper, which gleefully described the mayor’s arguably unlawful conduct on this day of infamy as a “regrooving lesson in civic tact,” has chronicled for posterity Kruzan’s full-throttled retaliation against the president of a nonprofit business advocacy organization…and against the organization itself, the board of which the mayor used, through intimidation, as his proxy.

    [For the unbelievers who don't think that fact trumps fiction every time, just take a gander at the Bloomington Alternative piece...with its Alice in Wonderland title and expressions of undiluted pleasure in the blatant deprivation of an individual's—and an organization’s—free speech rights through the mayor’s machinations: "Out to the Woodshed" - http://www.bloomingtonalternative.com/node/7712 ]

    The nonprofit president’s BIG MISTAKE? He simply had the guts to speak truth to power and criticize the mayor in an article which served as the local newspaper’s faint-hearted attempt to provide a critique of Kruzan’s disastrously incompetent first year in office.
    (“Kruzan’s first year gets mixed evaluation” http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/stories/2005/02/14/news.0214-HT-A1_PJR4…)

    After sending the nonprofit’s board a threatening email, “objecting to” its president’s legitimate and protected speech and ominously reciting the several ways that the organization might jeopardize government-bestowed resources and collaboration, Kruzan mobilized his 24/7 SWAT team of operatives in an effort to get his critic fired and/or punished. (NOTE: This email is available to all citizens through a public records request.)

    Long story, short: the critic, nearing retirement and pressured by his threatened but spineless board to write a letter of apology and retraction/explanation that was published over a week later in the same paper, was “merely” humiliated and clearly “dissuaded”—along with the advocacy organization and the rest of the business community—from exercising his/their 1st Amendment rights at any time in the future.

    And the local newspaper’s response (which struts the inviolability of its First Amendment rights at ITS convenience); did it run with this story for the first big headline of the year: “Mayor Kruzan violates free speech rights of community leader!”? Maybe a cautionary editorial on the sacred right of citizens—and the paper’s recruited sources— to criticize their elected officials without fear of retaliation? No, nada, not a peep. Just the “graciousness”—which it extends to nearly all of its readers—of publishing the apology letter of the victim.
    http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/stories/2005/02/23/digitalcity.letters….

    The INABC is on the right side, and BT will be too after its new attorneys can work out an agreement with ACLU of Indiana. The BT board is most likely simply in lawsuit shock–and the mayor’s trumped up theatrics haven’t helped.

    The INABC would be naive to think that in the Bloomington community, the BT’s response was primarily “anti-atheist.” On the contrary, BT is most likely “anti-hate” and fearful that “giving in” will affect or end its much-needed advertising revenue-stream. Why? Because a concession on its ham-handed policy would arguably open up advertising to other forms of protected speech, including “hate speech.”

    Bloomington has the dubious distinction of having been targeted by both the Phelps family from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka and a local knock-off of vitriolic anti-gay hatemongers who, in addition to other haters, might likely be next in line to use BT busses as a canvas for their toxic messages.

    And no question about it: BT would disallow advertising altogether—and the Bloomington community would likely demand it do so—before BT would permit the advertising of poisonous hate speech on city busses.

    Justice will prevail in the INABC case–but the outcome will have everything to do with BT’s being educated by its counsel and ACLU-Indiana and nothing to do with a buffoon of a mayor who has nothing to offer a great transit company but a history of hypocrisy.

    P.S.

    For anyone reading this comment and wondering just how Kruzan’s conduct differs from former Gov. Blagojevich’s similarly tawdry behavior (where Blago is recorded threatening the Chicago Tribune that it’ll have to fire editorial staff critical of the governor if the paper ever wants to obtain badly needed government financing on a Wrigley Field deal), the answer might be: Kruzan actually SUCCEEDED in getting his critic silenced, punished…and nearly fired by the critic’s employer, a beneficiary of taxpayer dollars.

    The consequences of this eerily similar behavior by two imperious public officials could not be more starkly different: Blagojevich is charged with a Title 18, Sec 666, bribery and corruption felony by federal DA Patrick Fitzgerald; Mark Kruzan gets a “thumbs-up” in an article in Bloomington’s alternative newspaper, acquiescence from the mainstream, independent, and campus media, and, to all appearances, nearly total obeisance and/or indifference from a complacent and complicit public–as well as from the silenced victims of the “Valentine’s Day First Amendment Massacre”–for the last four years.

    But all is not sunny for Bloomington’s Teflon mayor: Although the time period for filing a 1st Amendment complaint has expired, the statute of limitations for a Sec 666 violation is 5 years. There’s plenty of time for an independent investigation by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana…and it’s long overdue.

    And a nice touch of poetic justice should an investigation ensue? The services of the City’s legal department, which has been mightily overworked due to the mayor and his minions’ extraordinarily poor judgment and arrogant behavior during the last 5-plus years, would be strictly OFF-LIMITS to Kruzan, now and in the future, on this issue.

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