Monday, August 24, 2009

Go Ahead... Fire That Bus Driver

The below story comes from The Examiner... my thoughts are in the title of this blog post:

The Des Moines, Iowa, bus driver who refused to drive a bus with the above ad on it has been suspended from her job. According to a report, Angela Shiel refused to drive the bus because the ad of the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers goes against her Christian faith. The 8-year employee faces termination.

According to the report, the general manager of Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART), Brad Miller, said that "DART policy states that drivers cannot choose which buses they drive." He said, "'Drivers are not permitted to reject a working bus. It's a very fundamental policy for DART. ... It's an essential rule that we will maintain.'"

Of course, this brings up a whole new issue. Do government employees have the right to refuse to do their job if it is against their religion? Now I cannot imagine that it is written anywhere in Christian documentation that "thou shalt not steer a bus bearing ads of the fool who hath said in his heart or out-loud or in print that there is no God." So, it is difficult to see how this would be against her religion. It may sting her religious "sensibilities" a tad, but how can doing her job, in this instance, be against her religion?

According to the report, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, Ben Stone, said, "'As a government agency operating a public forum, DART and all of its employees, including its drivers, are required to follow the First Amendment. Since DART managers cannot claim a religious reason to censor bus ads, neither can drivers.'" He went on to say, "'When you work for the government, part of your job is to respect the rights of your fellow citizens, and you cannot use your religious beliefs to evade that responsibility.'"

Shiel's husband reportedly said that his wife should have the right to refuse to drive a bus with the atheist ad on the side. He said that making her drive one of those buses is like telling her to be "'two-faced for the fact that she wants an income.'"

A Des Moines civil rights lawyer, Roxanne Conlin, has gotten in on the controversy saying that Shiel has the right to refuse to drive the bus and that making her drive it may violate her rights. She said that DART should accommodate Shiel in respect of her religious beliefs if they can reasonably do so. "For example", the report said, "DART might have been able to transfer her to a different bus or let her do desk work."

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. It seems, though, no matter what, when it comes to running these ads, DART is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't... at least for now.



This country is guided be the Constitution not the bible or anything else. The Constitution comes first. This may not sit well for all the religious sorts out there(and may be why we have so many out there who would love to have this country become a "Christian Nation"), but there is no religious side to our forming, only a deep glorification to individual freedom. And because we have a deep love(or should)for individual freedom, any thinking citizen should realize they may encounter beliefs which are not congruent with their own, call it diversity. Only a close-minded person would think like this bus driver. What if she was a teetotaller and the bus was advertising libations? She has no case and she needs to grow up and realize not all think like her even if she wished it so.

In my lifetime I have witnessed untold advertisements for all kinds of religiousity, from billboards, TV comercials, etc. and not once do I object or even give it a second thought. But recently we had an atheist billboard put up on the way to the airport and the "people on the street" interviews on the local news pointed out that many would rather do away with the First Amendment than have to look at a billboard they disagree with. Now that is what scares the fuck outta me.

Cowcharge said...

I'm curious to know why a government entity like this bus line would take the risk of accepting ads from any controversial group. Seems obvious that someone would complain about it sooner or later. But since they DID accept the ads, and it states clearly in DART's policies that drivers can't choose which buses they drive, the driver had to decide whether her religious outrage weighed more than her paycheck. She decided, knowing the result beforehand. So what's the problem, lady?

BAWDYSCOT said... that's a blast from the past! Nice to see you're still around.

csm said...

Why would this ad be any more or less controversial than an ad for a church? I'm guessing because non-religious folks are in the minority and it would be easier to ignore them.