Victory for Free Speech! AHA Wins Case Over Atheist Bus Ads

Leadership at the American Humanist Association celebrated after a federal judge on August 12 ruled in favor of the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR), who had been denied advertising space for an ad reading, “Are you good without God?  Millions are.”

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a lawsuit on behalf UnitedCoR in response to the Central Arkansas Transit Authority’s refusal to lease advertising space on its buses on account of the proposed ad’s atheist and humanist content, violating the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

“This is a victory for secular Americans everywhere, and proof that we will not be silenced,” said David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association. “Humanists and atheists will indeed convey their message through the mass media, and they will fight through the courts if any discriminatory institutions try to stop them.”

“The judge agreed that the transit authority likely would be found at trial to have violated the UnitedCoR’s First Amendment right to free speech by discriminating against its atheist and humanist viewpoint, and therefore agreed to issue an injunction requiring the authority to contract with UnitedCoR on the same basis as any other advertiser,” said Bill Burgess, attorney and legal coordinator of the American Humanist Association’s legal arm, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “This is an important victory not only for the free speech rights of nontheists but for any American whose speech in a public forum may encounter government disapproval.”

The decision is a testament to the movement’s growing strength. In 2005, the American Humanist Association launched the first major secular advertising campaign, and the idea quickly caught on across the country as well as abroad. Similarly, the secular community had to rely on outside nonprofit groups for legal representation when humanist rights were violated, until the formation of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center in 2006, allowing humanists to spearhead efforts in federal court to protect the rights of nontheist Americans to advertise in Little Rock.

“Just a few years ago America had never seen a major secular advertising campaign or a humanist group capable of defending the rights of humanists in the courts,” continued Niose. “In this case we see both, and it shows how far the movement has come in such a short time.”

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center, a project of the American Humanist Association, provides legal assistance to defend the constitutional rights of secular Americans by challenging violations of the separation of church and state guaranteed by the Establishment Clause and seeking equal rights for humanists, atheists and other freethinkers.

To donate to the AHLC and help defend humanist rights, visit