The atheist bus adverts issue continues. This controversy arose back in February when The New Zealand Bus Company reversed their original agreement to run ads (see New Zealand has bigots too). While the NZ Atheist Bus Campaign used part of their donated funds to run substitute billboard ads (see NZ Atheists Swap Buses For Billboards) they continued with a complaint to the Human Rights Commission about the bus company’s actions.
The Director of Human Rights Proceedings considered the complaint
and has announced his agreement that the bus company’s refusal to display the No God advertising constitutes prime facie discrimination on the grounds of ethical belief under the Human Rights Act 1993.
Iain Middleton, speaking for the Humanist Society of New Zealand, says his Society and the No God advertising group has accepted the Director’s offer to represent the case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.
Only one official complaint
When the NZ Bus Company rejected the ads they claimed complaints from customers and staff. However, only one (1) complaint was ever made (by A. Renault) to the Advertising Standards Authority. In August the authority chairman announced:
“The relevant provisions were Basic Principle 4 and Rules 5 and 11 of the Code of Ethics.
The Chairman noted the Complainant’s sincere concerns. However, the Chairman confirmed that Rule 11 of the Code of Ethics made provision for the presentation of robust expressions of opinion from named and identified organisations, saying it was “an essential and desirable part of the functioning of a democratic society”. In the Chairman’s view this applied to the advertisements before her and there was no apparent breach of the Advertising Codes.
The Chairman ruled that there were no grounds to for the complaint to proceed.”
It’s interesting that the NZ Bus Company caved in to religious pressures which, on the evidence of a single public complaint, were so insubstantial.
I look forward to the findings of the Human Rights Review Tribunal in this case.