ASA rejects 'atheist bus' complaints

Claims in advert are not offensive and 'not capable of objective substantiation', says advertising watchdog

The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected complaints that the British Humanist Association's controversial 'atheist bus campaign' breached its code.

The campaign, which features the slogan "There's Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life", prompted 326 complaints to the watchdog.

Nine MPs have signed an early day motion saying the advert makes Christians and Muslims feel "embarrassed and uncomfortable" about travelling on public transport. (Third Sector Online, 14 January).

But the ASA concluded that "the advert was an expression of the advertiser's opinion and the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation". While acknowledging that the content of the advert would be at odds with many people's beliefs, the ASA has said it was "unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence".

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the BHA, said: "The adverts were never intended to offend anyone, but we have become concerned about suggestions from a number of people that the non-religious should not be allowed to advertise their beliefs in this way.

"This would be a serious infringement of our freedom of expression, so it is reassuring that the ASA has accepted this, even if a small minority of religious believers find that offensive."

Stephen Green, national director of campaigning organisation Christian Voice, said: "There is clearly one rule for Christians and another for the ASA's secular friends. When Christians are involved, people are far more likely to make an adverse judgement."

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