Atheist group appeals ruling that its ads have same restrictions as religious organizations

A Pennsylvania atheist organization is appealing a judge’s ruling that the Lackawanna County transit system did not violate the group’s First Amendment right to free speech when it declined ads that, “promote the existence or non-existence of a supreme deity, deities, being or beings,” on buses.”

U.S. District Judge Malachy Mannion in July found the County of Lackawanna Transit System, COLTS,  has a legitimate reason to reject ads submitted by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Freethought Society.  The judge’s ruling says COLTS’ treatment of the organization follows COLTS’ advertising policy and is no different than any other group seeking to buy advertisement.

The American Civil Liberties Union represents the society in the case.  The ACLU filed the appeal with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. A news release issued by the ACLU says, “The trial court’s ruling in this case does not diminish our belief that COLTS is suppressing our clients’ right to free speech. As a government agency, COLTS is significantly limited in its ability to censor speech. It can’t censor speech in order to keep people from debating important public issues, which is exactly what COLTS has tried to do here.”

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