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More on that Minneapolis bus driver:

Three days ago, I posted about a decision of Minneapolis transit officials to accommodate a bus driver's religious objection to driving a bus with an external ad for a local gay magazine. Now transit authorities have partially reversed themselves. From the AP:

Metro Transit said Friday that it inadvertently sent the wrong message about tolerance in trying to accommodate a bus driver's religious objections to driving buses that carried gay-themed ads.

Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons said the company made a temporary accommodation to the driver on Oct. 12, allowing her not [to] drive buses that carried an ad for Lavender, a local magazine aimed at the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.

The ad showed the face of a young man with the slogan, "Unleash Your Inner Gay." Fifty buses carried it periodically.

The ad contract ran only through Oct. 18, Gibbons said, and buses no longer are carrying the ads.

However, in reviewing the issue, Gibbons said the company likely would not make the same decision again.

"We are not persuaded that advertising, per se, infringes on religious practices and would be reluctant to make similar accommodations in the future," Gibbons said. . . .

"We deeply regret any impressions of intolerance," Gibbons said in a written statement. "Metro Transit employs and serves a diverse population, and we do our best to be respectful of all views." . . .

There are a couple of interesting things about this development.

First, transit authorities have apparently decided that driving a bus with an ad of this sort probably doesn't really violate any religious commands to the contrary. As I suggested in my last post on this issue, it's probably true that very few religions — even ones that strongly object to homosexual acts — would really command an adherent not to drive a bus under these circumstances.

Announcing a general policy of reassigning drivers would invite a problem: drivers who are simply uncomfortable with certain ads will (either mistakenly or dishonestly) label their objections "religious" and demand reassignment. This problem is especially great when it comes to anything gay-related because many people still have a gut-level "ick" reaction to homosexuality. Moreover, if challenged, they vaguely attribute this reaction to religious teachings.

I'd rather not have transit authorities closely examining religious doctrines. But by saying they would "be reluctant" to grant the accommodation in the future, transit authorities leave open the door to a possible accommodation in isolated cases while signaling their skepticism about such claims in a way that may (1) dissuade impostors and (2) cause sincere religious objectors to examine more closely their own religious scruples before requesting an accommodation.

Second, I'm more skeptical of transit officials' "diversity" and "tolerance" rationales for the decision. As is common, they appear to use this sort of language primarily to mean respect for persons based on things like race, sex, and sexual orientation. That's a fine principle. If transit authorities had accommodated a driver's religious objections to homosexuality by removing the gay-themed ads or permitting a driver to refuse entry to homosexual riders, that would be a very different case.

But why doesn't "respect for all views" include those of religious dissenters from majoritarian values? Here, by hypothesis, we can accommodate a single religious objector at no cost to anyone — not to bus riders, not to advertisers, not to other employees, and not to the transit authority. The only thing that's lost to us is the satisfaction of knowing that this religious dissenter from our values has been made to heel. I'm not sure this satisfaction is all that different in form from the old rationale for sodomy laws, under which the state enforced the nosy preferences of the moral majority even though it could show no appreciable harm to anyone from the activity prohibited. It shows no intolerance of gay people to accommodate sincere religious objectors where the accommodation will cause no harm; on the contrary, it shows tolerance for religious diversity.

Note that the controversy is not necessarily over. The ads run periodically and will probably run again sometime next year.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on that Minneapolis bus driver:
  2. Another religious accommodation controversy in Minneapolis:
Andrew F (mail) (www):
This is precisely what I asked myself:

But why doesn't "respect for all views" include those of religious dissenters from majoritarian values?

The bus driver wasn't trying to keep homosexuals off the bus; she just objected to participating in a public display in support of homosexuality. If we're really concerned about tolerating "all views," shouldn't we tolerate her views as well?
10.21.2006 1:12pm
FantasiaWHT:
Once again, the pursuit of tolerance is shown to be inherent ly intolerant
10.21.2006 1:25pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
She can buy her own ad.
10.21.2006 1:49pm
te:

many people still have a gut-level "ick" reaction to homosexuality

Except when it involves men thinking about hot lesbians, of course.
10.21.2006 1:56pm
Kovarsky (mail):
i have a religious objection to religion.
10.21.2006 2:00pm
Stephen Clark (mail) (www):
I disagree with Dale's premise that this accommodation can be made at no cost to anyone. One cost is requiring the union to make an exception to its seniority system and potentially creating a cleavage in the bargaining unit. The law regards that as a weighty consideration whenever the issue is accommodating religion or disability by overriding collectively bargained rules in a unionized workplace.

Of course, her opinion regarding homosexuality, religious or otherwise, is entitled to deference from her employer. But it is not, I would argue, entitled to any greater deference than the objections of a gay bus driver to driving a bus with an ad for an "ex-gay" propagandizing organization. Yet employment discrimination law requires accommodations only for religious objections or disabilities. And I doubt that driving the bus with the "ex-gay" ad would be sufficient, by itself, to create a hostile environment requiring the transit company to implement mitigating measures that might approximate a religious accommodation for the gay driver.

She just objected to participating in a public display in support of homosexuality. That would be entitled to respect, except in no objective sense could one say the driver is "participating in a public display in support of homosexuality." If I teach in a classroom named for Rick Santorum, I'm am hardly "participating in a public display in support of Rick Santorum." What she objects to is any association with anything gay-related, and that absolutist attitude of disassociation is not something an employer should be required to accommodate, nor does it promote a civil society to indulge that kind of absolutist attitude of disassociation, whether exhibited by antigay religious objectors or gay people. If one wants to disassociate completely, one should stay at home.
10.21.2006 2:19pm
Public_Defender (mail):
i have a religious objection to religion.

I know this was a joke, but traditional Baptists have a strong religious belief in the separation of church and state. The busses in my town are run by a government agency, and they sometimes carry religiosu advertisements. Should traditional Baptists be allowed to refuse to drive those busses?

I mostly agree with professor Carpenter, religious dissenters (left and right) should be careful about demanding changes in other people's behavior. Employers need to think about whether offering an accomodation would really be that much of a problem.

Common sense, courtesy, and thoughfulness about what really counts would solve all but a few accomodation problems.
10.21.2006 2:22pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Once again, the pursuit of tolerance is shown to be inherent ly intolerant

I liked the case where one British MP said something to the effect that the West is too judgmental when it tries to impose its values of tolerance on Islam.

The response was -- is this a case of "This intolerance for intolerance is intolerable"?
10.21.2006 3:03pm
Dale Carpenter (mail):
Stephen: Two points. First, how do you know that assigning her to a different bus would violate the union's seniority system or any collective bargaining agreement between the union and the transit authority? I've seen the union object, but not on that ground. Maybe I missed something in the news stories.

Second, I haven't seen evidence that the driver in question demanded "absolute dissociation" from anything gay. That's an exaggeration of the stakes here. She hasn't refused to carry gay passengers, for example. The request here is a very narrow and apparently costless one, on the evidence we have.
10.21.2006 3:04pm
Linda Greenhouse (mail):
For an illuminating take on the limits of religious accommodation for public employees, look at Richard Posner's concurrence in Rodriguez v. City of Chicago, 156 F. 3d 771 (1998) - the case was about a police officer who claimed a right under Title VII not to have to guard an abortion clinic.
10.21.2006 3:52pm
Cornellian (mail):
The request here is a very narrow and apparently costless one, on the evidence we have.

Costless? I would think trying to keep every route in a transit system staffed in the face of people getting sick, taking vacations, quitting etc. is hard enough as it is without the drivers being able to designate the routes they're willing or not willing to drive. The driver in question had no real religious objection to driving the bus, rather he was uncomfortable with the ad, slapped the label "religious" on his feeling, and used that to try to get out of driving that route.
10.21.2006 4:04pm
Stephen Clark (mail) (www):
Dale: 1. I'm guessing, given the ubiquity of seniority in collective bargaining agreements. I haven't found any useful discussion in the media of the union's actual position. I'm suspicious that it's just all about the union's concern for diversity. That doesn't ring true as sufficient to explain the union's position. I'm also suspicious of the press presentation of this as a matter of unilateral discretion on the part of the transit authority. Unless there's something special about Minnesota public-sector labor law, this is something about which the transit authority should have a duty to bargain with the union. Even if there's an accommodation or broad management-rights provision in the collective bargaining agreement, the union should still have been involved in the process. Ultimately, interpretation of any such provision would ordinarily lie with an arbitrator, not the employer. It just sounds to me as though something else was going on, like the city assessing its constitutional obligations under the state free exercise clause, which would presumably trump state public-sector labor law. The idea that this is just a purely voluntary and unilateral employer decision in a unionized setting doesn't sound accurate. At any rate, I wasn't sure you were speaking specifically of this situation or generically about accommodations being costless in this kind of employment situation.

2. Fair enough. My point, however, is that the law has no obligation to accept her characterization of her role as forced promotion of homosexuality. Apart from the distortion of the advertisement by describing it that way, no reasonable viewer would assume the ad on the bus reflected her message or belief. Is she literally driving the bus around and making it so people can read the ad? Of course. But I'm also literally funding the Iraq War by paying my taxes. That's just not enough, in my view, to justify an exemption. The demand for disassociation in these kinds of situations is an example of hypersensitive overreaching that I don't believe the law should require employers to accommodate.

First, as a purely pragmatic matter, it's exactly that kind of hypersensitive overreaching that undermines the impetus to try to create a workable accommodation regime for meritorious cases to begin with. This is one reason the Court has adopted the "de minimis" burden standard.

Second, I am concerned about a kind of egocentric focus on disassociation undermining the possibility for a workable civil society. I don't see a system where everyone walks around town in a legally mandated protective bubble as a social ideal. She can criticize the ad all she wants, and I can make cracks about the Santorum room while I'm teaching in it. That's far better than legally reinforced disengagement and segregation, which is what I see the exemptions push as idealizing. At some point I'm willing to say, "I'm sorry, but you have left your home and are participating in a diverse society. This thing you find objectionable does not have a sufficient nexus to you to justify legal intervention to disassociate you from it." And I'm willing equally to say that to gay people who would demand similar hypersensitive disassociation from people or things they find objectionable.

Third, I generally dismiss religious claims based on the following formula: "I believe it is a sin for me to facilitate someone else's commission of x sin." That is nothing but a formula for turning one's desire to regulate other people's lives into one's own personal religious mandate for exemption purposes. If you want an exemption from a rule forcing you to commit x sin, that's one thing. But an exemption from a rule that you claim involves you in facilitating someone else's commission of that sin is generally overreaching. Rather than try to engage in elaborate hair-splitting or interest-weighing in order to grant some of these exemptions and reject others, my inclination is to rule the entire "sin to facilite sin" construct out of order.

Lastly, I suppose I reject your thought experiment that attempts to isolate this one request and disregard the probable future requests that will follow if the employer grants this one. I don't think it's possible to consider this in isolation. The employer's fear of an explosion of claims is a legitimate interest, and disregarding it doesn't make this truly a cost-free accommodation. Or maybe I was a management-side lawyer too long. :)
10.21.2006 4:14pm
Dale Carpenter (mail):
Cornellian: As I make clear in the post, there is a danger of pretextual objections. But how do you know that the driver's religious objection here was pretext for mere discomfort?
10.21.2006 4:16pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Another one of those problems that would disappear with the elimination of government monopoly bus system and the major human rights violations represented by civil rights laws.
10.21.2006 4:21pm
Dale Carpenter (mail):
Stephen: We just don't know about the first point. I'd be surprised if the transit authority didn't have power to make accommodations like this under its agreement with the union. And I'd be surprised not to hear the union squawk about it in the press; I've looked at all the stories I could find in the local press and there's nothing there about a violation of any agreement. I agree with you that if the accommodation would violate an agreement the company made with the union, this would be a different case.

On the second point, I'm talking only about a permissible accommodation, not a required one. Slippery slope concerns in this area are common, see Employment Div. v. Smith, but I wouldn't advise against making the permissible accommodation on the basis of slippery slope concerns (1) where the transit authority has made it clear it will look somewhat skeptically at claims that the ads really present "religious" problems, and (2) there is as yet no reason to think that any avalanche that would create real costs is coming. Absent denying all accommodations or allowing all accommodations, there are no bright lines here -- only best judgments.
10.21.2006 4:31pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Public Defender,

I know this was a joke, but traditional Baptists have a strong religious belief in the separation of church and state. The busses in my town are run by a government agency, and they sometimes carry religiosu advertisements. Should traditional Baptists be allowed to refuse to drive those busses?

This is actually an important point. Yes, I think there should be an objection for the Baptist, but not for the person driving the bus with the Rufus Wainwright ad. If the religious objection is to participating in the commingling of church and state, it is an objection to the ACT of driving the bus. But this bus driver's "religious" objection is not to the ACT of driving the bus, it is to what is DEPICTED on the bus's ad. That's an important difference - so important, I think - that the results would be turn on it.
10.21.2006 4:37pm
Stephen Clark (mail) (www):
Another one of those problems that would disappear with the elimination of government monopoly bus system and the major human rights violations represented by civil rights laws.

What? It is the civil rights laws that impose the duty on employers to accommodate religious objectors, and those laws impose that duty on private as well as public employers, although it may be that the state constitution imposed an additional requirement on the transit authority here because it is government agency.
10.21.2006 4:37pm
Barry P. (mail):
A few years ago, a bus driver in Vancouver, BC complained about driving a bus with an FCUK ad on the side. His union petitioned to have the ad removed, and the transit system complied.
More at: http://www.vanmag.com/0007/fcuk.html

(The link tag was rejected by the VC posting form)
10.21.2006 4:43pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> without the drivers being able to designate the routes they're willing or not willing to drive.

The driver didn't object to the route. The driver objected to driving a bus with a given ad, and the transportation company stipulated that there are plenty of buses without said ad, buses that said driver could use on whatever route that said driver was assigned.

Suppose that the transportation company had a "personal bus" policy, where said company tried to assign the same bus to drivers every day, a policy intended to foster a sense of ownership by drivers. Would it be unreasonable for me to request that "my bus" not carry ads that I found objectionable?
10.21.2006 4:51pm
Stephen Clark (mail) (www):
Dale, you are certainly in a better position--being in Minneapolis--to follow the media reports than I am on this one.

I didn't mean to imply any establishment clause objection to a permissible accommodation here. Are you sure this is in no sense a mandatory accommodation case? I can readily imagine the transit authority granting the exemption after receiving legal advice based on the Minnesota Supreme Court's mandatory accommodation case law under the state free exercise clause. As I'm sure you know, Minnesota has rejected Employment Div. v. Smith and seems to subject denials of exemption requests to strict scrutiny. Given the potential for more claims from other drivers, the transit authority just seemed awfully eager to please the objector, if the authority thought it was in a situation of purely voluntary accommodations. Why wouldn't she have a decent claim in light of the state free exercise jurisprudence? (My point was to disagree with that jurisprudence or the idea of a similarly tough standard under Title VII.)
10.21.2006 4:58pm
Kevin Murphy:
Your objection to any possibility of "accomodation" poses other problems. Since a city bus system must accept ads reagrdless of message, barring porography and the like, there are certain ads that a majority of bus drivers might object to.

Hypotheticals:

An ad for an art show depicting a sculpture of Jesus upside-down in a toilet.

An ad for the KKK.

A viruently anti-Semitic ad.

Etc.

So, how do the rights of the employees interact with the requirements that governments not filter mesages?
10.21.2006 5:31pm
Fred the Fourth (mail):
and this same driver's next petition will be to remove the bus from the streets entirely, given that he/she was rudely subjected to this government-agency-approved message shamelessly parading down the street where he/she was peacefully miinding his/her own business...
I have a certain sympathy with Duncan's comment.
10.21.2006 5:33pm
Dale Carpenter (mail):
Stephen: The possibility of a state constitutional claim for failure to accommodate is interesting. It might be a case for mandatory accommodation, but that just isn't what I'm arguing for here. By the way, in the press accounts the transit authority suggested that its original decision was based on what it believed were its obligations under the CRA, not the state constitution. I think there's probably not a Title VII issue here, but I'll leave the employment law to you!
10.21.2006 6:04pm
Stephen Clark (mail) (www):
Dale: Yes, now we're on the same page. I was initially reading you as talking about mandatory accommodation. And thanks for the clarification of the transit authority's position. The Title VII accommodation requirement is so minimal, I was immediately thinking of an alternative, like the state constitution. I guess it's possible that the accommodation might not impose more than a de minimis hardship on the employer here under TWA v. Hardison. It's also possible that the Minnesota Supreme Court has given your state CRA a more pro-objector interpretation than Hardison gave Title VII.
10.21.2006 6:21pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Another one of those problems that would disappear with the elimination of government monopoly bus system...

But then everyone would find out that the real cost per rider isn't say $1.20, but more like $5-6. At least that was the case in this city, when I last saw the budget. Keeping bus lines halfway accessible requires running them when and where there are at times only half a dozen or a dozen passengers, being moved by a decently paid driver of a VERY fuel inefficient vehicle.
10.21.2006 7:28pm
Mark71:
This story reminded me of something. Ten years ago a vegetarian bus driver in Orange County, CA was fired for refusing to hand out coupons for hamburgers. EEOC determined his rights were violated because his vegetarianism was a religion under Title VII.


http://www.courttv.com/archive/legaldocs/misc/veggie.html
10.21.2006 9:45pm
Anthony A (mail):
What do you expect? It's Minneapolis, where Muslim taxi drivers don't have to carry passengers with alcohol.
10.22.2006 2:17am
Brian G (mail) (www):
Of course, if it were a Muslim, they wouls bend over backwards in the name of tolerance. I know that it is a Christian because they did mention it.
10.22.2006 2:39am
Elliot123 (mail):
Let's face it; a lot of religious zealots are nut cases. So are lots of zealots of other orientations. But we tie ourselves in knots trying to accomodate nut cases because they wrap themselves in religion, race, or gender? Nod sagely as they spout nonsense because that's fashionable today? Maybe it's time to call a nut a nut.
10.22.2006 3:19am
Cornellian (mail):
Cornellian: As I make clear in the post, there is a danger of pretextual objections. But how do you know that the driver's religious objection here was pretext for mere discomfort?

This depends on one's definition of "religious objection."
There are a number of possibilities

1) the driver belongs to some obscure religious sect that really does have some prohibition against driving a bus with an ad on the side that refers to homosexuality in some non-negative way
2) the driver belongs to some known religious denomination (Catholic or Protestant I'm guessing) which has no such prohibition, but the driver genuinely (but wrongly) believes that it does
3) the driver belong to some known religious denomination, knows that it has no such prohibition, but doesn't feel comfortable driving the bus with the ad on the side and calls this a "religious objection." Note that I'm not saying that the driver is necessarily acting in bad faith here. He doesn't have to be thinking "ha ha I'm getting away with something here by calling this a religious objection." He might genuinely believe that it is a more moral decision not to drive the bus than to drive the bus, even in the absence of some formal religious command not to drive the bus.
4) the driver is simply acting in bad faith, doesn't really believe there's any religious prohibition involved, but just doesn't want to drive the bus with that ad on the side, and knows the only way to get out of it is to describe his objection as religious, and so he does.
5) a worse degree of bad faith can be imagined here. He might not care about the ad at all, want to get out of driving the bus for some other reason and have invented an objection to the ad as a pretext.

So which of these is a religious objection? #1 clearly is though that doesn't mean the driver automatically wins.
Should #2 really count as a religious objection? Put another way should mistaken religious objections really count as religious objections? I doubt it.
I think #3 is the hard category, because it's easily abused and it's very difficult to come up with any workable test to separate category 3 from categories 2, 4 or 5. Allowing #3 as a legitimate religious objection means each and every individual gets to make up his own individually tailored set of religious objections without having to justify them by any external criteria. Yet #3 is probably the category applicable here.

So what to do? It's a hard problem. I'm not a huge fan of the concept of accomodation in general though I don't pretend that one can ignore religious beliefs altogether or that there are easy solutions to this problem.
10.22.2006 4:21pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
There is a spectrum between outright prohibitions ("Thou shalt not drive vehicles exhorting mankind to lie with mankind") and undefined squickiness labeled religious. There are vestiges. For example, someone who doesn't particularly keep kosher, but who will not eat poultry that isn't kosher because of long-ingrained notions that kosher poultry is more healthful and significantly less likely to carry disease than non-kosher poultry; or someone who feels there is something wrong in frying the bacon on the same griddle that was recently covered with butter to cook French toast.
10.23.2006 10:56am
Randy R. (mail):
I'm glad the changes were made, and the bus driver has to resume the regular route. Imagine all the time wasted over this issue!

When I look at public ads on busses and other public or quasi public places, I see plenty that could potentially offend people of certain religions. Heck, I'm offended by many of them. But I don't for one minute think that anyone is really 'endorsing' the contents of the ad. When there is an ad for a movie such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I don't think the bus company is endorsing cutting up people just to torture them. I see it as an ad for a movie.

Same thing here. The ad was not that men should go out and start up homosexual relationships -- it was an ad for a magazine. Unless the ad had something pornographic in it (which everyone conceeds it did not), then the bus driver really has no basis for objection.
10.23.2006 1:52pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
@ Randy:

> I'm glad the changes were made, and
> the bus driver has to resume

You're GLAD someone's beliefs will not be respected in the future? What if it was YOUR beliefs? Remember when gays had to stay in the closet whether they wanted to or not?

> The ad was not that men should go out
> and start up homosexual relationships

Then what exactly does "unleash your inner gay" mean?

More to the point, what does it say to someone who believes the gay community actively wants to make more people gay?

It quite likely says "read this magazine, it will make you gay". That may strike the rest of us as a completely stupid concept, but we're not dealing with rational objections here - we're dealing with religious objections. It doesn't matter what you think of it, or what I think of it, but what people in general will think of it.

And the fact is, anyone with no resistance or objection to gays will think NOTHING of it... but the homophobic segment of the culture will take this as proof that gays REALLY DO want to recruit straight people. That's your downside: you give ammunition to the anti-gay lobby. Does your upside sufficiently outweigh this? Why are you advertising a gay magazine on a bus, anyway? Isn't it inherently targeted to just 10% of the population? Why does everyone in the city need to see it driving up and down the street?

If a local bus ad here in Seattle said "Read The Stranger", which is the local gay paper, I wouldn't object to that. But I might object to "You know you want The Stranger" or something similar. There are certain ways to present your message which are... well, suggestive.

Doesn't it seem reasonable that someone might interpret "unleash your inner gay" as meaning "experiment with homosexuality"? Given that the idea of homosexuals "converting" straight people is a major irrational fear of homophobes, doesn't this particular marketing message seem just a LITTLE ill-considered and offensive?

The whole double-entendre thing is so overdone in the gay community, I think they've actually stopped noticing it. Yesterday evening, I ordered a 32 ounce peppermint mocha from a little espresso stand, and as she was passing it over to me the girl said "Wow, that is really huge."

"Thanks," I responded, "I hear that a lot." After all, you just can't say that to a man without getting some kind of remark. I didn't really think about it. And there are people out there who would be really offended if I said this to them. There are others who would give me their phone numbers. Last night, I just embarrassed and flustered the poor girl. But it's one thing when you make a suggestive remark to one person, and quite another when you make it in a large public advertisement.

There's a lot of basic failure to consider the opinions of others in the gay community. I think it's perfectly sensible to say "unleash your inner gay" in a print ad, when you have to pick up a newspaper and open it to see the ad. But a large banner on the side of a bus is seriously intrusive. People will HAVE to see that ad on their way to or from work.

A little additional discretion is necessary in this case, but the gay community interprets any request for discretion as a demand that they stay closeted. Everything is blown out of proportion in a massive display of reductio ad absurdum, because fundamentally their freedom is more important than everyone else's comfort. This kind of selfishness plays a large part in public resistance to gay-friendly initiatives.
10.23.2006 3:25pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Making workers less happy with their working conditions ultimately increases expenses for the employer. (This may well be offset by the savings the employer is realizing by not providing free snacks, or not providing buses in good repair, or not selling offending ads.)

Suppose this tempest had left religion ("I demand") out of it, and it had been simple preference. The employer might be able to accomodate the driver, or might not, and can make his own calculus whether a particular expense is worthwhile. (When I drive buses my preferences are first for configuration, then mechanical repair, and then comfort items for myself and my passengers, and then the passenger roster [elementary students are more work than middle schoolers]. But I've never driven buses with ads, and I've never driven buses [like the amphibious Duck Boat tours] that have multiple colors, and I've never driven a city bus. I might say to the dispatcher "I don't want this unit, the radio can't pick up AM without static and I listen to an AM station." Most drivers listen to FM, so it's not a problem, and he accomodates me. But if the dispatcher notices that most of the drivers gripe about something in particular, the executive may have to make a decision.)

I have fairly low standards, but I suppose there is something I won't do, or would do anything else before, for my paycheck. You can call it a heckler's veto, but it's perfectly reasonable for an employer to be aware that decisions have costs. If it's a municipal bus, the bus company is probably more obliged to make sure that the content of ads are not judged and this may require a modification of a very standard disclaimer "The opinions pasted on the side of this bus do not necessarily represent those of the bus company or the driver." But this doesn't mean that the executive can't also attempt to accomodate the drivers, when possible, so as to keep the taxpayer's costs, in terms of salary, lower.

(If it were a private bus company, I wouldn't see anything wrong with the company telling would-be advertisers "Your ad makes my drivers unhappy, and I have to pay extra to keep them happy enough [or to find drivers who don't care] so I am charging you more, or refusing your ad all together. You are free to buy your own bus or one of those billboard trucks.")
10.23.2006 4:38pm
Deoxy:
Nice to s a comment on "tolerance", which is inherently INtolerant of certain things....

One other little comment: "Isn't it inherently targeted to just 10% of the population?" Actually, it's more like 5% MAX (that's the number reputable advocacy groups use - reputable opposition gorups use 2-3%) - the 10% number was just sheer fraud. Anybody remember the guy's name that came up with that? Anyway, the "study" had ridiculous sampling problems (to put it mildly!) AND a massively over-inclusive definition of "homosexual".

I really liked your comment on the whole, though.
10.23.2006 7:14pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
> Nice to s a comment on "tolerance", which
> is inherently INtolerant of certain things....

Tolerance cuts in all directions. You can't tolerate an opinion while rejecting its alternatives; that's just plain old prejudice. Tolerance primarily involves recognising people's right to say, do, and think things that you don't understand or like.

If you don't protect the rights of others to do what you dislike, you're not really protecting rights - you're protecting opinions. Which is just fine, as long as you understand and admit that you're protecting your own political agenda... but when you try to portray this as being about rights, it's just a lie.

> the 10% number was just sheer fraud

If you invest too much effort trying to be accurate about it, people bog you down in trivia over where you got the number. If I say 10% when I argue that gays are a tiny little minority, everybody knows I pulled that number out of my ass, and anyone arguing with me about it is just going to be making the same point I already made. Nobody seriously proposes that 12% or 15% or 20% of the population is gay.
10.23.2006 8:13pm
Randy R. (mail):
Caliban: Why are you advertising a gay magazine on a bus, anyway?

You should direct your question to the ad agency that placed the ad.

However, unless an ad advocates something illegal or dangerous, then most public entities will allow the ad. To me, that's a perfectly sane policy. There are many public ads that only target a minority of people, but that isn't the issue: I can run an ad on a bus that targets only Aleutians, which is these parts are a pretty small minority.

As I mentioned in another post, there was an incident here in Washington DC about a year ago. A so-called 'ex-gay' group was advertising its services at bus stops around the city. This offended many gay people (including me), and the larger gay groups complained to the mayor, who not only pulled the ads, but prohibited any ads of that class (I forgot exactly how he defined it).

I was against this, as I see that as a restriction on free speech. Although I found the ad offensive, my choice was to ignore it, which I did. Therefore, I think in general, unless an ad is promotes something illegal, or is pornographic, it should be allowed. Therefore, everyone has an opportunity to be reached, or be offended. If my beliefs get offended, too bad. Same for everyone else as well.

But the issue at hand isn't whether ads should be allowed, it is whether the bus driver should still have to drive her bus. As that is her job, she should do it. Most everyone I know has a job that entails them doing something they dislike, find objectionable or whatever at one time or another. What you do is suck it up and get on with your life. Outside of your job, of course, you can write letters, boycott the bus company, whatever you want to do.
10.24.2006 3:48am
Randy R. (mail):
Deoxy: Anybody remember the guy's name that came up with that? Anyway, the "study" had ridiculous sampling problems (to put it mildly!) AND a massively over-inclusive definition of "homosexual".

It was Kinsey.

Massively over-inclusive definition? It has been quite difficult for social scientists to come up with accurate labels. The CDC, for instance, defines homosexuals and MSM as different categories, even though their sexual habits are nearly identical. MSM is for men who have sex with other men, but decline to self-indentify as homosexuals. So are they gay or not?

The numbers change dramatically depending on how you ask the question. If you ask a man if he is gay, he might say no, and might also say no if you ask if he has sex with other men. However, if you ask the same man if he screws other men, he might say yes. So what label do you put on him? Your guess is as good as mine. Reaching out to men who refuse to call themselves gay or homosexual but still have sex with other men is not only problematic, but it spreads AIDS and other diseases, because many of the messages make assumptions that may not be true.

If you were to total all the men and women who self-identiify as gay, who claim to be bi-sexual, who have sex with other same-sex people at least a few times a year, or have a strong desire for it, you would get a number that is higher than 10%, but how much higher is open to debate, as we just don't know enough.
10.24.2006 3:56am
Caliban Darklock (www):
> But the issue at hand isn't whether ads
> should be allowed, it is whether the bus
> driver should still have to drive her bus.

I think the issue is fundamentally about whether this *one* ad is offensive when placed on a bus, and whether it is reasonable for the driver to be so offended by it that she wouldn't drive the bus.

And I think this one ad is sufficiently offensive to merit that kind of refusal. It doesn't advertise a magazine, it advertises being gay. While that may be good marketing, it's also a politically loaded message, and I don't think it's reasonable to FORCE someone to carry that message around.

> The numbers change dramatically depending
> on how you ask the question.

It also depends on who's asking it. A lot of gay men and women alike will self-identify in different ways depending on their audience and the expected usage of the results.

Case in point: a recent phenomenon (or at least, *I* only encountered it recently) is what some people are calling "genderqueer" - women who reject their gender, preferring to dress and act like men, but who are not necessarily lesbians. Of course, every such woman I've ever met IS a lesbian, but it's not necessary. The distinction between this and "butch" is unclear, since I've also heard of (but never met) so-called "aggressives" who dress and act like men but ARE necessarily lesbian. While one might assume "butch" implies "lesbian", apparently the term "aggressive" was created because it doesn't. If you see a woman who dresses and acts much like a man, she may be any or all - or none - of the above.

Are the genderqueer gay? That depends. To gay America, the rejection of traditional gender roles *does* generally make someone gay. But to straight America, the question of "gay" revolves around the question of "sex". So when gay America talks to straight America, there's this vast gulf in definitions.

Which is why the non-lesbian genderqueer might strenuously deny being gay when talking to reporters from the straight press, but happily label themselves as gay when talking to members of the gay community. The word "gay" just doesn't mean the same thing in both places.
10.24.2006 4:20pm
Randy R. (mail):
Caliban: it's also a politically loaded message, and I don't think it's reasonable to FORCE someone to carry that message around.

Then all ads for politicians and all ads referring to any political issue should be banned as well.
10.24.2006 4:29pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
No... the operative word there is "loaded", meaning that a strong emotional response is desired - and there is an outlet provided if you have one reaction, but none if you have the opposite reaction. If you like the idea of unleashing your inner gay, you buy the magazine.

But what if you think maybe your five year old doesn't need to be asking you what that ad means? Now what do you do?

In all likelihood, you do something irrational, because there's no sensible thing you can do at this point. You have this shock and outrage and anger, and nothing to do with it. If this were a political ad for Joe Baumeiser or "Vote No on 933", you could vow to vote for Ralph Melish or say yes to 933. But there is no positive action you can take in response to this ad; there is only "don't buy the magazine", but that doesn't *express* anything.

This particular ad was irresponsible. It shouldn't have been produced. I can excuse the people who bought the ad, and the people who let it be placed on the buses, and even the people who drove the buses. But the ad agency that produced it should have known better, because it was their BUSINESS to know better.
10.24.2006 5:59pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
That's actually an interesting question.

When your five year old child sees an ad that says "unleash your inner gay" and asks you what "gay" means, whose fault is that?

Is it the child's fault? Almost certainly not.

Is it the ad's fault? Again, almost certainly not; the ad is clearly not intended for children.

So who does that leave? The parent! When your child asks you an embarrassing question, it's YOUR OWN FAULT.

At least, that's my opinion.
10.24.2006 6:10pm
Ken Arromdee:
Is it the ad's fault? Again, almost certainly not; the ad is clearly not intended for children.

Really?

Someone designed that ad campaign with the intention that it be seen by a general public that includes lots of children. They may not have "intended it for children", but they intentionally put it somewhere where they knew children would see it.

Consider the same argument for a porn magazine. Could you put a porn magazine with a nude cover on a newsstand, and use the excuse "we didn't intend the magazine for children"? Of course not--if you put it where children can get at it, and you knew that in advance, you're just as much to blame as if getting the material to children was your goal.

Think of it as a kind of "reckless disregard for whether children would see it".

So who does that leave? The parent! When your child asks you an embarrassing question, it's YOUR OWN FAULT.

The parent could not avoid the child seeing that ad by any reasonable means. It isn't the parent's fault; it's the fault of whoever put the ad there.
10.24.2006 6:38pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Ken, I don't think you can compare pornography - which is shocking to the child directly - to something which is not in and of itself inappropriate for the child, but merely embarrassing for an adult to explain.

It strikes me that most people's use of reasoning by analogy is severely flawed.
10.24.2006 8:44pm
Randy R. (mail):
"In all likelihood, you do something irrational, because there's no sensible thing you can do at this point. "

Or you can do something rational and responsible, which is explain to the child that some people are different from others, and that this ad appeals to those types of people. If the child presses further, you just explain that just as some men love women, some men love men. It's not a difficult concept, and most kids in the elementary school know what a gay person is anyway.
10.25.2006 12:29am
Ken Arromdee:
Ken, I don't think you can compare pornography - which is shocking to the child directly - to something which is not in and of itself inappropriate for the child, but merely embarrassing for an adult to explain.

Yes, I can, because I'm careful about what aspect of it I'm choosing to compare.

The point is that the argument "it wasn't intended for children" is meaningless if you intentionally put in a place where you knew children will get at it, regardless of whether children are your target audience. It doesn't depend on the exact reason why people don't want children to get it.

In general, "I didn't intend to do (something that I knew very well was a consequence of my actions)" is not convincing.
10.25.2006 1:26am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Randy: Most everyone I know has a job that entails them doing something they dislike, find objectionable or whatever at one time or another. What you do is suck it up and get on with your life.

Sometimes you find out if something can be changed, and sometimes it can be.
Sometimes you take a different job, which raises the cost to the employer of that job.
10.25.2006 2:10pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
@ Randy:

> Or you can do something rational and
> responsible, which is explain to the
> child...

What child? You're confusing the examples. A lone passerby is shocked and offended by the ad. He wants to express his disapproval. What is the rational and responsible outlet for that disapproval?

Well, number one, it's outside the advertiser's control, which is bad. Number two, the most likely target for *any* outlet is THE BUS DRIVER.

@ Ken:

> The point is that the argument "it wasn't
> intended for children" is meaningless if
> you intentionally put in a place where you
> knew children will get at it

That's true. It was a hasty statement based on much more extensive reasoning I didn't feel like explaining.

The advertisement is not to blame because the word "gay" itself is not inappropriate for children. What *is* inappropriate for children is the political context of homosexuality, which is neither the product nor the responsibility of the advertiser.

The frustration of the parent primarily stems from an inability to understand how you properly educate the child (i.e. "get the child to agree with you") without incorporating the political context.

This is not a frustration the advertiser can address, because it's not something that comes from the advertiser's message. It's something that comes from the viewer's politics. So the viewer is to blame for it.
10.25.2006 5:12pm
Randy R. (mail):
Caliban: A lone passerby is shocked and offended by the ad. He wants to express his disapproval. What is the rational and responsible outlet for that disapproval?

Writing a letter to the bus company. Or writing a letter to the editor of the paper. Or boycotting the bus and the magazine being advertised. These are all rational and responsible outlets for expressing disapproval.

"The frustration of the parent primarily stems from an inability to understand how you properly educate the child (i.e. "get the child to agree with you") without incorporating the political context. "

Who says you have to get into politics about sexuality? When you see half-naked women (or worse) selling products for ads on busses that I see everyday, how do you express disapproval of those ads? They are far more explicit in their sexuality than this ad, and visually so. (Children can understand the visual of a mostly naked woman much easier than words). Do you explain the sexual politics of feminism and so on everytime you see one of those type of ads?
10.25.2006 5:48pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
> These are all rational and responsible
> outlets for expressing disapproval.

The question isn't what someone COULD do, but what someone WOULD do. The *existence* of a rational and responsible alternative does not in any way force people to take it. People are generally NOT responsible and rational.

> Who says you have to get into politics
> about sexuality?

How can you not? The very idea that there are straight people and gay people is a political idea; the two groups are largely incapable of understanding one another's viewpoints.
10.25.2006 6:56pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Oh, sorry, I forgot to address this:

> Do you explain the sexual politics of
> feminism and so on everytime you see
> one of those type of ads?

No, because anyone understands at a glance that you are supposed to buy the product because the girl is pretty. Same goes for half-naked men: you buy the product because the guy is attractive. You want to have or be that person. Children grasp this intuitively, without needing an explanation. Even if there are several people, they grasp that all of the people are attractive - whether male, female, or both.

Verbal messages are significantly different. It would be interesting to consider whether an imperious-looking woman could appear on a magazine ad with the legend "release your inner bitch", for example. Especially it if was a black woman. What sort of questions might that inspire from a child? How should one respond to them? Would it be harder to explain this to a girl than to a boy? Is it any more difficult to think of a response when you're not a member of the political party in question?
10.25.2006 7:11pm