Non-religious advertising

The British Humanist Association (BHA) ran an entertaining advertising campaign on London buses last year, and it has just announced that it will run the campaign nationwide. The campaign is built around the slogan:

BHA advert, via their site.

However, religious groups – including Christian Voicecomplained to the Advertising Standards Authority, arguing that the bus campaign broke the advertising code on the grounds of substantiation and truthfulness. The Guardian (hat tip: Media Law Prof Blog) picks up the story:

ASA clears Atheist Bus Campaign ads

… The advertising watchdog has ruled that a controversial atheist ad campaign, which sparked the ire of Christian groups for proclaiming “There is probably no God”, did not break its code …

See also: AFP | BBC | Index on Censorship | Telegraph | TimesOnline. From the ASA statement:

Atheist bus ad campaign is not in breach of the Advertising Code

… The ASA Council concluded that the ad was an expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation. Although the ASA acknowledges that the content of the ad would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause serious or widespread offence.

The Christian Voice response is here. The best response I have found is on Nick Spencer‘s Theos blog on the Telegraph website, returning to a fray he had joined when the advertisements were first posted on London buses.

Back on the (atheist) buses

[The ASA’s decision] is terribly long-sighted and rather disappointing. Who would not have relished the sight of the ASA adjudicating on whether or not God probably exists? It could have been the Scopes Trial of the 21st century, calling the world’s leading philosophers, theologians, historians, artists, anthropologists, physicists, biologists, and psychologists to testify, not to mention the legion of ordinary men and women who claim to have had a spiritual experience or two.

The ASA offices in High Holborn would have turned into a media circus, as thousands of correspondents from every country on God’s (“Discuss.”) earth arrived to witness the judgment of this panel of sages. At last the issue would have been decided, probably.