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Friday, 16 January 2009

Off the buses

Onward, Christian soldiers, come and march all over our pathetic, pusillanimous faces, why don’t you?

The attitude of the passenger-transport company First Bus is disgraceful and an assault on free speech. What kowtowing spinelessness!

What can they have done to get me so jacked up? Well, there’s a bus driver, Ron Heather from Southampton (seen here in a BBC picture), who refuses to drive any that have the “atheist bus” slogan on them, which reads, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” (See our last entry on the atheist bus, with links, here.)

The BBC news website tells us that First Bus has told Heather it will do all it can to ensure he doesn’t have to drive one of the buses with the slogan on them.

Heather is said to have reacted with “shock” and “horror” when he saw the slogan. He hadn’t heard of the “atheist bus” campaign by now? He, a committed Christian? And just what is shocking or horrible about a point of view?

The illogicality of all this is that religion is always dealt the trump card. What about the thousands of ads on buses all over the world that thousands of drivers probably don’t agree with?

Would a teetotaller be allowed to choose buses that don’t advertise vodka? Would a deep-green environmentalist who thinks we should all travel by public transport be allowed to avoid driving a bus that advertises the latest Toyota saloon? What about the Muslim who didn’t want to drive a bus with a Christian message on it? (Come to think of it, he’d probably get his way.)

And what about an atheist who didn’t want to drive a bus that carried religious tosh? After all, the “atheist bus” campaign came into being by way of a reaction by its founder, the comedy writer Ariane Sherine, to ads on buses that said non-Christians would burn in hell for all eternity.

What of the driver who found that to be offensive? Would First Bus have gone to the trouble of rejigging its driver-to-vehicle schedules to allow him/her to drive a bus without the slogan? Doubt it, but we’ll never know.

The fact is that Heather is refusing to do the job he was paid to do. He knew there were ads on buses – have been for decades. He must have known, therefore, that there would be some he wouldn’t agree with.

No company is going to allow a driver to opt out just because the bus carries a particular slogan – except in this case, it seems. So why should this one be the exception?

Could it be that it’s about religion? And not just a slogan about religion, but a slogan that has a dig at religion (although a very mild one, it has to be said)?

First Bus should hang its collective head in shame.

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