Ottawa joins Victoria and Halifax in nixing the atheist bus ad that states: “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
OC Transpo’s policy around religious advertising, unlike Halifax’s, is a bit hazy. According to the Ottawa Citizen, OC Transpo asserts:
“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. Religious advertising will be permitted if the information is designed to promote a specific meeting, gathering or event and the location, date and time of said event.”
Is the atheist bus ad offensive? Presumably not to the 20% of Canadians without a religion. And, as I’ve stated before, I think your faith might be a bit on the wobbly side if a bus advert that’s fairly benign (although I find it rather cheery. But I’m also an atheist) shakes your core beliefs.
Would OC Transpo say the same about a Christian ad that promoted salvation for believers? Could this not be construed as offensive or prejudicial; meaning that non-Christians can’t be “saved” and are therefore “bad” or “wrong”? A few assumptions here, but this thought experiment is still grounded in reality.
If this advert sought to promote hatred or violence against religious groups (like many religions frequently do to each other), then I could see how such an ad would be offensive. But this case may show that there continues to be bigotry and prejudice aimed toward atheists.
Where OC Transpo might have a wee bit of wiggle room is that it permits religious advertising for church bake sales or Diwali celebrations and not for religious proselytizing per se. The test will be if the Freethought Association of Canada wants to advertise a rally and if OC Transpo will allow for posting of that advert.