First, I apologize if you’re getting sick of hearing about the Indiana Atheist bus campaign…but as an atheist in Indiana, it is important to me, so I’m going to keep blogging about it!

While the campaign was having trouble in Bloomington, the following ad had been approved in South Bend, home to Notre Dame:
The ads had been approved by Burkhart, the advertising agency in charge of bus ads and were supposed to go up on the TRANSPO bus system on Monday the 11th. This was a strategic move to have the ads circulating when President Obama would be in town to give his commencement speech at Notre Dame.

Key words: supposed to

At first the campaign didn’t worry, because their contract includes a five day leeway for putting up the ads. But now they’ve heard back from Burkhart and there’s a bigger problem. Burkhart has an agreement that they can approve ads for TRANSPO, but if the ad is controversial, they must show it for TRANSPO for their approval. Burkhart, apparently being a company full of reasonable human beings, did not find the add controversial, so they never sent it on to be checked. The general manager of TRANSPO read about the Indiana Atheist Bus drama in Bloomington in the newspaper and put the ads on hold. Why?

“The ad was deemed controversial not because of its content, board Chairman Chip Lewis said, but because of the media attention it got in Bloomington. The bus authority in that city declined to post the ads, which prompted a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming the atheists’ First Amendment rights to free speech were being denied. Lewis, in South Bend, said because of the hoopla downstate, Transpo officials want to be sure about posting the ads.”

Ok, let me get this straight. You were originally fine with the content of the ads. You heard the media was freaking out downstate because a bus agency rejected the ads. Scared, you reject the ads yourself. …Wait, what? How the hell is it logical to avoid controversy then to do the same exact thing that caused the initial controversy? Don’t they realize that their rejection is going to cause the same response?

They’re holding a meeting on Monday to approve or reject the ad. While it will be great for it to be approved, it’s still crappy this is happening. It will miss President Obama and all of his media coverage, which was the #1 reason why the campaign decided to run the ads now instead of when class is in session. Even if they eventually run, it will be significantly less effective. Also, it’s being put up outside of their contractual five day leeway period. Why are they even waiting until Monday, if the drama here is potentially missing Obama? Why can’t they meet Thursday through Saturday (Obama’s speech being on Sunday)? Is the board of directors of a bus company in South Bend, Indiana so freaking important and busy that they can’t organize a meeting until Monday? Really?

Sigh. Will we ever see atheist ads in Indiana? Maybe West Lafayette will end up being the first after all.