Ottawa buses won't run atheist ads

By DEREK PUDDICOMBE
The Ottawa Sun
Toronto and Calgary transit will run this message

Toronto and Calgary transit will run this message

OTTAWA — The city’s transit committee voted yesterday to support OC Transpo’s decision to reject an atheist group’s advertisement – even though Toronto and Calgary have approved the ads.

Members of the Humanist Association of Ottawa are disappointed with the decision and say the city’s ad policy is discriminatory.

Group member David Burton said he and others were shocked when they learned the city refused to allow the ads, sponsored by the Freethought Association of Canada, that say, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

‘HEAVY-HANDED’

“We think it’s a heavy-handed move by OC Transpo,” said Burton. “The ad isn’t confrontational, adversarial, objectionable or controversial.”

Coun. Marianne Wilkinson said the ad demeans religious groups across the city.

“To me as a Christian, it does hurt people,” she said.

OC Transpo general manager Alain Mercier said the ad contravenes the city’s policy.

The policy says: “Religious advertising which promotes a specific ideology, ethic, point of view, policy or action, which in the opinion of the city might be deemed prejudicial to other religious groups or offensive to users of the transit system is not permitted.”

Coun. Alex Cullen, chairman of the committee, says the decision to reject the ad sends the wrong message about tolerance. He failed to convince members to reverse the decision, but plans to introduce a notice of motion at next week’s council meeting.

“We are engaging in an act of censorship,” he said.

Burton doesn’t have much hope council will vote in favour of the ads.

“The atheists are being oppressed by the Christian majority and the majority of council are probably Christians,” he said.

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