A sight you won’t be seeing in Australia any time soon
Following on from the Labor Government’s recent splurge of some $140+ million of Australian taxpayers’ money to host the Catholic Church’s visit by the Pope in Sydney last year, it comes as some surprise that a group of individuals who wish to promote an atheist perspective – through a privately (ie non-government) funded advertising campaign have had their proposal rejected.
According to a report in the SMH, The Atheist Foundation of Australia was knocked back by Australia’s biggest outdoor advertising company, APN Outdoor, on its proposal for a nationwide campaign featuring atheist slogans.
The campaign – with slogans such as “Sleep in on Sunday mornings” and “Celebrate reason” – follows successful attempts by the British and American Humanist Associations to raise awareness for atheism in London and Washington.
APN Outdoor cited no reason for rejecting the $16,000 public transport campaign, and declined to comment.
“The intention was to demonstrate to the public that there is an alternative to religion that is rational, reasonable and worthy of thought,” said the president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, David Nicholls.
“It took three weeks for APN Outdoor to come to a decision, after they initially told me there’d be no problem. The final discussion by phone to an executive ended with an abrupt message that they were not going to take our business.”
APN Outdoor refused to comment on whether the company’s clients include religious organisations, but Mr Nicholls said buses in Adelaide had been adorned with religious messages such as John 3:16. He also approached bus advertisers in Hobart, with the same result.
“Australia is in desperate need of a human rights and equal opportunities act,” Mr Nicholls said.
“It’s clear that western Europe, the US and Britain have better laws than we do when it comes to … respecting freedom of speech.”
British atheists have been celebrating the appearance of flippant slogans on London buses this week but atheists in Australia have been barred from launching a similar advertising campaign on the nation’s public transport systems.
Associate Professor Carole Cusack, of the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, said most Australians were too apathetic about religion to be affected negatively by the campaign. “If religions can buy advertising space, then why not atheists?”
Friar Peter McGrath, of St Francis of Assisi Catholic parish in Paddington, agreed.
“The [atheists] should have a right to advertise. They should be able to say what they want.”
The atheists are taking their case to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Board.