From buses to billboards: the next stage of the Atheist Bus Campaign is unveiled for Universal Children’s Day

18 November, 2009

Billboard adverts have gone up today in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, as the internationally renowned poster campaign which began this year on London buses launches its second phase. So much money was donated towards the campaign after the bus posters had been launched that the campaign organisers announced that any further money raised would be put towards new adverts later in the year.

‘One of the issues raised again and again by donors to the campaign was the issue of children having the freedom to grow up and decide for themselves what they believe, and that we should not label children with any ideology,’ said Ariane Sherine, original creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign. ‘I hope this poster campaign will encourage the government, media and general public to see children as individuals, free to make their own choices, and accord them the liberty and respect they deserve.’

The posters display some of the labels routinely applied to children that imply beliefs such as ‘Catholic’, ‘Protestant’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Hindu’ or ‘Sikh’ mixed up together with labels that people would never apply to young children such as ‘Marxist’, ‘Anarchist’, ‘Socialist’, ‘Libertarian’ or ‘Humanist’. In front of the shadowy labels are happy children, with the slogan, ‘Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself’ in the now world-famous font of the Atheist Bus Campaign. The billboards are being unveiled to coincide with 20 November, Universal Children’s Day, which is the United Nations ‘day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children’.

‘We urgently need to raise consciousnesses on this issue,’ said Richard Dawkins, Vice President of the BHA, President of RDFRS, and co-sponsor of the campaign. ‘Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a “Marxist child” or an “Anarchist child” or a “Post-modernist child”. Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents. We need to encourage people to think carefully before labelling any child too young to know their own opinions and our adverts will help to do that.’

Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education, said, ‘The labelling of children becomes even worse when it is implemented as a matter of public policy. One of the issues we hope to highlight with these adverts is the continuing and increasing segregation of children according to parental religion in state-funded “faith schools.” Social cohesion and preparation for life in a diverse society is best achieved in inclusive community schools, where children from different backgrounds learn with and from each other without being divided by labels that they are not old enough to have chosen for themselves.’

The billboards will remain up for two weeks. The BHA has launched a fundraising campaign to coincide with the unveiling of the billboards which will raise money for campaigns to phase out state funded ‘faith schools’.


Images of the billboards and FAQs

Billboard locations:

London: Old Street roundabout

Cardiff: 42 Merthyr Road

Edinburgh: Portobello Road, Piershill

Belfast: 74-76 Great Victoria Street / Bruce Street

The Atheist Bus Campaign’s appeal for donations to fund the bus adverts was launched in October 2008, aiming to raise just £5,500. Within four days it had raised £100,000 in individual donations from the general public and went on to raise over £153,523, smashing its original target by 2791%

Spin-offs from the campaign have included bus and other advertising campaigns organised by humanist organisations all over the world and a book edited by Ariane Sherine, ‘The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas’, the proceeds of which are being donated to Terrence Higgins Trust.

In 2009 Universal Children’s Day marks the twentieth anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the sixtieth anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child include: Article 2, where the child is ‘protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members’; Article 13 which provides that the child should ‘have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds’; Article 14 which guarantees that states will ‘respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.’

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and promoting Humanism. In education, it campaigns for inclusive schools with no religious admissions policies, balanced teaching about different beliefs and values, and no ‘collective worship’; the BHA is in favour of the phasing out of state funded ‘faith’ schools and campaigns nationally and locally for this cause.