A Tale of Three Bus Ads

If he were around today, Martin Luther might very well thump his 95 Theses angrily into a blog post. Or perhaps he’d stick them on a bus. That seems to be the preferred vessel for religious provocations these days.

Over in the UK, they have a bit of a row taking place on the side of public transportation. Last year, the British Humanist Association, a group supported by the renowned atheist Richard Dawkins, took out a cheeky ad out declaring: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The ad rubbed some the wrong way, particularly a political party with God at their core. So the party took out an antithetical bus ad: “There definitely is a God, so join the Christian Party and enjoy your life.”

Now a political entrepreneur across the Atlantic is getting on the bus ad wagon. Pamela Geller, a conservative blogger (and, thus, anomaly) in Manhattan, has a particular gripe against Islam. Together with Stop the Islamization of America, a New York-based organization, Geller made an ad buy voicing her concern:

Not surprisingly, the ad has ticked off a few Muslims who don’t feel threatened by their faith. “I think it’s stupid, sorry,” one Queens resident told the Daily News. “You are free to believe whatever you want. If you are in it by force, you are not a real Muslim.”

Geller’s ad arrives with the recent decision to construct a Muslim Center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. The plan, which was endorsed last night by a community board, does not please Geller.

Certainly, she is entitled to her opinion. And, if she can dole out the cash, entitled to stick it as many places as she can. The MTA sees no problem with Geller’s provocative ad buy. But the agency and Geller should be warned: over in the UK, the Christian Party signs brought over 1,200 complaints in the past year—more than any other ad.

Mark Bergen is a contributing editor at KtB. He lives in Chicago and blogs here.