Tuesday was supposed to be the day that the County of Lackawanna Transit System, or COLTS, was to decide whether to allow an atheist group to advertise on its buses.
The COLTS Board of Directors heard a final plea from a member of the local atheist group looking to advertise on county buses, but COLTS upheld its original decision, saying the atheist ad violates an existing policy.
Justin Vacula, a Marywood University student, was the only member of the NEPA Freethought Society to attend the COLTS Board of Directors meeting.
The atheist group asked COLTS to reconsider its decision against running an ad on its buses to promote the group.
Despite appeals from a national atheist organization, the board is standing its ground, saying the ad violates a policy COLTS adopted last summer.
“We will not allow our transit vehicles or property to become a public forum for the debate and discussion of public issues, and since passing this policy in June, we have been very consistent in not allowing any ads that violate the policy. That’s why we didn’t permit Mr. Vacula’s ad promoting atheism,” said COLTS solicitor Tim Hinton.
He added since the policy was adopted, you’ll only see ads for car dealerships or consumer products on county buses, but Vacula and other members of the atheist group said such a policy may violate the Freedom of Speech.
“Well, there’s another question that the constituted policy is permissible to begin with as if the argument that something can’t be a discussion of public issues is permissible enough to reject ads,” Vacula added.
The NEPA Freethought Society has teamed up with a national organization, American Atheists, which plans to file a lawsuit against COLTS, but officials with COLTS said they believe their advertising policy will hold up in court.