Fort Worth transit agency bans faith-based ads
December 21st, 2010
11:15 AM ET

Fort Worth transit agency bans faith-based ads

By Katie Glaeser, CNN

The message from Fort Worth, Texas: no more religious advertisements allowed, at least on its transit system.

The pro and anti-religious ad battle has been front and center this holiday season. Atheist groups and the Catholic League had a billboard brawl in New York late last month, and now the fight has reached Texas.

The Board of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) voted unanimously last week to formally adopt an advertising policy for all T property which includes a ban on faith-based ads.

The vote was prompted after a recent ad purchased by The Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason which caused a lot of commotion in town. The ad posted on four buses reads "Millions of Americans are good without God."

Joan Hunter, communications manager for The T, said the decision for the ban was not based on the content of the Coalition's ad, but rather the amount of resources the department had to spare to field concerns in reaction to it.

"The demands on our time to respond and trying to engage us as a public forum was pulling us from focus on the operation of a transit agency and that is our business," Hunter said in an e-mail message to CNN.

The T already had guidelines in place against tobacco and alcohol ads, some local political ads, and those deemed obscene. In a news release, The T says the new policy will "exclude any ads with religious, non-theistic, or faith-based content and all political ads."

"Our policy regarding belief ads that we had was impartial and had worked without interruptions to our time and resources in the past," Hunter said. She also noted there are several other ads posted on their bus fleet right now, including one that says "Jesus is the reason for the season" and another paid for by a Catholic organization.

Terry McDonald, coordinator of the Coalition, said the group's campaign was not scheduled to come out during December. It was being worked on last summer to coincide with a book signing by Harvard humanist chaplain Greg Epstein. When the event fell through, the Coalition thought the title of Epstein's book, "Good Without God," still held an important message.

"The reason for our campaign is to let people who are nonbelievers know about the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason and that has succeeded very, very well," McDonald said.

He said the group didn't expect there to be anywhere near this much publicity but with the media coverage of the controversy the Coalition's affiliates are seeing their memberships increase and they've received donations from across the country.

Kyev Tatum, pastor of Friendship Rock Baptist Church in Fort Worth, called The T Board's vote "a dangerous precedent" because it only took a matter of days for religion to be taken out of public policy. Tatum had called for a boycott of the buses when the controversy began.

"The compromise was worse than what we had before," Tatum said, "because the compromise says Christians can no longer advertise and we don't like that."

Tatum, president of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said his organization's response to the ad is a new campaign called "Better with God." They're hoping to get one million supporters behind the cause.
"They may be good without him," Tatum said, "but we can say they're better with him."
Any current advertising with The T that falls into a banned category will be allowed to remain in place through the remainder of the contract. The Coalition's ads will expire in early January.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Culture wars • United States

soundoff (1,036 Responses)
  1. jay

    free speech should work both ways

    December 21, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • Ben

      This has nothing to do with freedom of speech.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
  2. Get a Grip

    Oh please. Our country was founded on "Christian Values"?... What values? Oh, you must mean slavery, and the genocidal ethnic cleansing of over 5 million Native Americans? This includes those tribes, that in a "loving Christian gesture of Jesus's love and compassion", were given wool blankets intentionally infected with smallpox which wiped out entire villages. I am a Christian but I call bs on those pompous, self-righteous so called Christians that claim any sort of moral or historic "high ground"

    You're pathetic!

    December 21, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
    • Richard Wolford, PhD

      The United States of America is in no sense founded on the Christian faith - John Adams, Treaty of Tripoli. Read a bit more and speak a bit less.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • Observer

      We should all tremble now, for Dr. Wolford has spoken. Are you so insecure that you must trumpet your PhD? Pitiable, really.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
    • Scott

      @Observer: Good Christian, if you can’t attack the data, attack the person

      December 21, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
    • Observer

      @Scott: Your assumption is incorrect. I merely object to a colleague's unnecessary flashing of their credential, nothing more. The intellectual community does not benefit from such presumption.

      December 22, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
  3. Freddy

    If the local church didn't make a stink about the athiest ad, there would be no new rule that they now don't like!!

    Also, if the Christians who are so gung ho about limiting the freedom of expression by non-believers were truly confident in the righteousness of their belief, they wouldn't care what someone else said. Sounds like they have their doubts....

    December 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • NL

      Doubt, and fear of profit loss. People start realizing that it's OK no to believe and they will simply quit going to church for appearances sake, and if they do that then the collection boxes will start coming in a whole lot lighter.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  4. BuddyKowalsk

    So it wasn't an issue until there was an atheist ad?

    December 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • Don

      Nope, which just shows how spiteful and hate-filled *some* theists are. They can have their religion plastered everywhere, but when someone dares to have an atheist ad, they get all whiny and pouty, demanding that it be removed.

      December 21, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
  5. mike hunt

    there may be millions without god, but millions good without god is a streach.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
    • Sir Craig

      Not so much a stretch, especially when you think of the millions who are jerks even with "god". "God" or a lack thereof is not going to change people's basic nature.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
    • Blaqb0x


      Can you please lookup the religion demographics of the prison population?

      December 21, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
    • james

      I live by the golden rule, to treat others as I wish for them to treat me. I live my life to enjoy it while trying not to tread on others. I don't need the fear of a man in the clouds sending me to hell to keep from killing people, stealing, and just generally being a jerk.

      I've known quite a few "Christians" who were nasty unpleasant and hypocritical people. It never ceases to amaze me the ways they come up with to use their religion justify bad behavior or convince themselves how morally superior they are. To be fair, I've known some very nice Christians too, but the same statements can be said of atheists. In short, it's the person, not the religion.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
    • ChesireCat

      Best. Troll. Name. Ever.

      December 22, 2010 at 12:13 am |
  6. Mikey

    Too much of that God stuff will rot your brain.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  7. Jeff

    Funny how inclusion and diversity has breeded so much anomosity towards people that are different.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
    • Observer

      In those words, there is a profound truth regarding the psycho-cognitive human experience.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
    • Scott

      I don’t know. There was a lot of exclusion and uniformity in the middle ages but that didn’t stop the crusades or witch / Jew / heretic burning

      December 21, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
  8. MikinAz

    Makes perfect sense. This is a public transit system...persumably meaning government run?...separation of church and state...getting it? But still a shock that ol god fearin texans would lead the way in some right thinknig around religeon...

    December 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  9. Clark1b

    very interesting.

    uhhh. who gets to define "good"?

    December 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
    • MikinAz

      the individual of course. Let me start the count...1.

      December 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  10. It's Me

    I am right you are wrong ! I have seen him/her in person, so you must believe me, I am right.

    Religion isn't it beautiful !

    December 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
  11. trumod

    Wasn't "Live and Let Live" part of the Sermon on the Mount?

    December 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
    • Clark1b


      December 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  12. GhostinthePC

    The problem is that many faiths try so hard to prove the other faiths as being wrong. Our forefathers wanted to escape persecution for their beliefs, yet here we are 2 1/2 centuries later having the exact same thing done to us of "Non-belief". You know something there Christian folk, the more you speak the more you push people who don't believe further away. You radicals are no better than the terrorists hiding behind your Christ for protection. You wanna be a Christian, please be one....just do it somewhere away from me. If I choose to go to "Hell" then I'll continue to live in Texas.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
    • john

      Gosh: I have been known to say to my fellow Christians that I too would desire that I could live under a Christian Theocracy, I just wonder who's idea of Christianity we would choose! This nation was formed to allow a fredom to worship as we believe, even to not worship if that is your position. I wish that you all knew the "Just and loving God" I know, yet even in God's plan we each have "Free Will". I too get tired of fellow Christians who argue with those who don't believe, I believe it is wrong for us to do so...... and I think it also wrong that you who do not believe "trash" the way some of you do on my God whom I know and love, the God who changed my world.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • Scott

      @ John: The last Christian theocracy was presided over by the catholic church during the dark ages. The most recent theocracies have been in Afghanistan under the Taliban and Iran under the iatola. Be careful what you wish for

      December 21, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  13. elgeevz

    IWhile people in a free society have the right to believe whatever they want to believe, they should be required to obey the ninth commandment, which forbids the bearing of false witness against their neighbors.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
    • NL

      The laws against libel and slander, you mean.

      December 21, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
    • Scott

      Nice idea; but, to obtain it you would have to kill every man, woman and child in the world. And also my cat, who swears to my wife he is starving even after I have just fed him.

      December 21, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  14. PAGANGRL69

    Each of us are on Our Own "Individual" Personal Journey's whatever so that may be...When people begin to realize this...The world could be a much more peaceful place...
    Blessed Be...

    December 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
    • Observer

      And that is indeed a wise word to all...thanks.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  15. JohnQuest

    elgeevz, the question is, do people have the "God" given right not to believe in God or the "God" given right to believe in God or both, maybe I am asking the wrong question.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
    • Jorge

      Apparently both, as: A-We have ALL been given free will and discernment. B-Given the violent, patchy history of religion, SOMEBODY has had to be believing in the wrong God(s).

      December 22, 2010 at 1:46 am |
  16. elgeevz

    I think that it was Mark Twain who defined "faith" as "believing in something you know ain't so."

    December 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • NL

      "We despise all reverences and all the objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us."

      From "Following the Equator."

      "So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code."

      From "Mark Twain, a Biography"

      December 21, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  17. JohnQuest

    elgeevz, not all religious people are conniving, some are actually honest (most in fact, at least the ones I know). What happened to you could have been done by a believer or non believer, belief in a deity does not automatically make one amoral.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • Observer

      Nor does rejection of deity make one an insightful intellectual.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
    • MadPanda

      But acceptance of a deity make you a failure logically speaking.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
    • Jorge

      So true, JohnQuest, but believing in a moral deity that allows you to oppress for gain while you measure others by a stricter standard seems elitist and vain, doesn't it?

      December 22, 2010 at 1:36 am |
  18. Sparkiss

    Hateful words are fruitless against Faith. You will never bring those who belief in God down. Merry Christmas.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
    • NL

      Saying that you can b 'Good without God' is 'hateful'? Unless you can prove otherwise God is merely a character in a book and, as far as I know, it isn't a crime to speak your mind about a literary character, is it?

      December 21, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
    • Brad

      Don't bother NL, see, religouse people consider it a personal attack if you don't agree with them. So, in their eyes, non-believers will always be hateful. I love being hateful, it so much fun and free!!

      December 21, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  19. elgeevz

    Looking back on my 78 years, the most honest, decent, and benevolent individuals that I have know were not at all religious; on the other hand, a deliberate lie told by a psalm-singing Baptist coworker who imagined that I was after his job cost me my own job, my life savings, and my good name. I loathe and despise them.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • Observer

      You harm only yourself by loathing and despising anyone.

      December 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
    • Brad

      that isn't true, I loath and despise killers, that keeps me from hanging out with them and getting killed. Also, is it living when you have to face ridicule, and hide everything you do because the religiouse majority persecute everyone around them that is different?

      December 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
    • Scott

      With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people
      doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that requires religion.

      December 21, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • Jorge

      As loaded as your emotions seem, elgeevz, I can relate. My son-in-law joined the Army Signal Corps two years ago and was scheduled for Afghanistan when a training accident left him incapacitated and on profile. He was unable to be discharged or to work until a medical determination was reached concerning his condition. He, my daughter and my grandson remained in my household until he was medically discharged recently and was able to enroll in college and move his family to a home of their own. About a month ago he stated on-line that even though he had never seen me step into a church, he believed me to be the most Christian person he had ever met. This has caused him to be reviled and chastised by members of his family which are devout Southern churchgoers at a time when he needs the most moral support, as he is trying to turn his luck around through smart, hard work and to do right by his wife and children. Any outside observer would see a fine young man exerting his power of discernment and struggling with the paradoxes and contradictions that many of us see, but unfortunately his family sees a heretic, which is a shame because that is what the ruling clergy said of Jesus of Nazareth, according to the Bible. I myself, having been exposed to the ancient beliefs of Taino Native Americans and Far Easterners transplanted into Latin America as well as Christianity, have a more pragmatic, holistic outlook on divinity and religious teachings which I choose to defer expressing, lest I be branded here in the Christian South as a HERETIC.

      December 22, 2010 at 1:18 am |
  20. JohnQuest

    G, if my words came out that way I apologize, I don't think that all religious people are the same, like all groups of people some are bu ttheads some aren't (that goes for the non believing community as well).

    December 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.