Atheist Lawsuit Against Pittsburgh’s Port Authority Settled

(Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 3, 2014) A federal lawsuit by the Washington DC-based United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR) against the Port Authority of Allegheny County has been settled. The Port Authority offered to pay UnitedCoR $20,000 in damages and pay the Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association–which handled the case for UnitedCoR–$40,000 in legal expenses. This offer of judgment was accepted and lawyers for the Port Authority and UnitedCoR filed notice of the agreement in federal court yesterday.

The suit was originally filed November 26, 2013, by UnitedCoR after the Port Authority refused to run $5,700 worth of bus ads aimed at attracting local atheists and agnostics to the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason, UnitedCoR’s local affiliate. The king-sized ads, to be placed on the sides of 12 buses serving Allegheny County, would have read: “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” A blue sky with clouds was to be the background behind the words.

While the settlement ends this litigation, UnitedCoR remains free to reapply to the Port Authority to run bus ads that comply with the current Port Authority ad policy that prohibits ideological messages.

Fred Edwords, national director of UnitedCoR, explained his reasons for agreeing with the Port Authority’s settlement offer. “Although we still maintain that we were improperly denied the opportunity to run our ad, as originally conceived, under the Port Authority’s old ad policy, the old policy is now gone. So even if the courts allowed our original ad to run, it would merely be grandfathered in as an exception. It wouldn’t improve the situation for others.”

Edwords added, “We also still maintain that the Port Authority didn’t correctly apply its new ad policy when they allowed certain ads by religious groups to run but not ours. However, through the litigation process we believe we’ve made our point and that the Port Authority will apply its new ad policy more consistently in the future.”

In putting forth the offer of judgment, however, the Port Authority denies any wrongdoing.

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For a hi-res image of the original bus ad, free for media use, and to download a copy of the original complaint, go to https://unitedcor.org/pittsburgh/news/atheists-sue-pittsburgh%E2%80%99s-port-authority-rejecting-godless-bus-ads .

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UnitedCoR is a national organization, headquartered in Washington DC, which focuses on organizing local nontheistic (atheist and agnostic) groups into coalitions and funding their bus and billboard ad campaigns. Its website is at www.UnitedCoR.org .

Legal services were provided by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association, also headquartered in Washington DC. Its website is at www.HumanistLegalCenter.org . The attorney of record was Charles Pierson of Pittsburgh.

The bus ads were originally intended to launch the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason (Pittsburgh CoR), a collection of nine nontheistic groups. The ads would have directed inquirers to the Pittsburgh CoR website at www.PittsburghCoR.org , inviting them to consider joining any of the groups in the coalition.

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For more information contact:

David Niose
Legal Representative
Appignani Humanist Legal Center
American Humanist Association
978-343-0800
[email protected]
www.HumanistLegalCenter.org

Charles Pierson
Attorney of Record
412-365-0519
[email protected]

Fred Edwords
National Director
United Coalition of Reason
202-550-9964
[email protected]
www.UnitedCoR.org

Professor Stephen Hirtle
Media Representative
Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason
412-965-3341
[email protected]
www.PittsburghCoR.org