The Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason sues over bus ad rejections

KTHV Channel 11 News (Video)

The Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason, a collection of 10 area atheist and agnostic groups, wanted to purchase bus advertising, inviting inquirers to consider joining any of the groups in the coalition.

But they say CAT rejected its opportunity to advertise.

The CAT system covers Little Rock on a daily basis with thousands of people exposed to its bus-side advertising.

LeeWood Thomas is a member of the Central Arkansas Coalition of Reason. He says while trying to buy bus advertising from the Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) for the busiest weekend of the summer, they were rejected.

He claims it’s not an issue of money, but one of beliefs.

"It kind of violates my freedom of speech in so that they are charging me more money than they would say another organization," says Thomas.

More money to display this a queen size sign on 18 CAT buses that says  "Are you good without God? Millions are."

A message Thomas says is meant to reach out to the public.

"We thought, yeah, we will go ahead and advertise over the weekend of Riverfest and that would give us the biggest bang for our buck. And of course in the midst of trying to negotiate the contract, it kept getting more and more expensive for no apparent reason," says Thomas.

But attorneys for CATA says that is not the case.

They say CATA never rejected the coalition’s ads and offered the same prices as anyone else — including an extra charge to cover any vandalism the buses endure due to the message.

In fact, CATA’s attorneys say the coalition was difficult and disagreeable from the beginning, threatening litigation from the start.

But the coalition says this is simply injustice.

"Most likely what was going on is that they would much rather just not run our message at all and they were trying to make it financially prohibitive to do so," says Thomas.

Thomas says the coalition is not seeking money.

They only want their ads to be displayed.

"We are your friends, we’re your neighbors, we’re your family.That’s all the message was. It wasn’t an attacking message of any kind. It was just, hey, millions of people are good without God."

Legal counsel for CATA says if the two parties can come to an agreement under reasonable terms, they will allow the coalition to purchase and display their ads.

The Central Arkansas Transit Authority has 21 days to respond to the coalition’s lawsuit.