Atheist Group Drops Claim of 'Taking Over DC Transportation' Ahead of Reason Rally

An ad for the 2016 Reason Rally, scheduled to be held on Sunday, June 4 in Washington, DC. | (Photo: Screengrab/Fox 5)

The nation's largest atheist organization is being forced to walk back claims that they purchased ads on Washington D.C.'s public transportation system despite its ban on religious and issue-oriented advertisements.

"Clarification: Freedom From Religion Foundation's 'I'm an Atheist and I Vote' ad campaign is not running on Washington D.C. Metro buses, which prohibit political and advocacy ads. It's actually featured on the Prince Williams and D runs on PRTC (Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission) commuter buses," stated FFRF.

This is a second blow to the organization that launched a massive ad campaign to promote their atheist Reason Rally in the nation's capital on Saturday, which was expected to feature Hollywood actor Johnny Depp who backed out of the event last week after his wife filed for divorce, as reported by The Christian Post.

"Commuter buses, BikeShare and kiosks in front of Metro Light parking garages feature messages from millennial atheist voters in advance of Reason Rally and Washington primary through June 6," the FFRF statement added in the correction to their announcement "Atheists taking over D.C. transportation" from May 24.

In May, the FFRF announced that they were saturating the Washington metro area with ads promoting their organization in advance of the Reason Rally event scheduled for June 4.

"We're blanketing the District with images of young secular voters, to show the faces of the fastest-growing voter demographic in America," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor in a statement.

Local news station Fox 5 reported that last week WMATA asked FFRF to clarify that they had not purchased ad space for their metro buses.

"Metro has asked an atheist group to stop claiming they have purchased advertising on Metrobuses. It is a sensitive subject with WMATA after it banned issue-oriented advertisements," noted Fox. "Metro said they have no such advertising running, never got a request to run such an ad, and is asking the atheist organization to correct its website."

WMATA's opposition to such ads stems from their decision last year to ban controversial advertisements like those about religion and politics.

This decision came from American Freedom Defense Initiative leader Pamela Geller's attempt to purchase ad space featuring cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

"In May 2015, the Board of Directors closed WMATA's advertising space to any and all issue-oriented advertising, including but not limited to, political, religious and advocacy advertising until the end of the calendar year, directing staff to seek public comment and participation regarding the role advertising should play with respect of WMATA's primary core mission to provide safe, reliable public transportation," noted WMATA.

"After considering input from riders and other stakeholders, WMATA staff recommend continuing the prohibition of issue-oriented and advocacy advertising indefinitely, as it may provoke community discord and create concern about discriminatory statements on the system, as well as potential threats to safety and security from those who seek to oppose the ad messages."

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