Hey Group! I just wanted to go ahead and start this discussion thread. I just got back in the office yesterday and am getting caught up, so I really have nothing new to report at the moment.
Just to recap some of the basic info:
There is no cost. We just have to agree to a two-year contract, and clean the road four times a year.
We would get a mile-long stretch of road (location still to be determined).
We would get two signs; one at the start and one at the end of our mile.
The signs will display the name of the adopter, which I am indicating as “Think Atheist.”
Supplies (bags, gloves, water bottles, safety vests, etc.) will be provided by DPW.
Volunteers will need to sign a waiver and attend a safety training session conducted by DPW.
Feel free to let me know of any questions or concerns you might have about our prospective road adoption. I will post updates when there is any new information to provide.
This is awesome! Keep us updated and let us know if you find out if we any say as to where the road will be!
Ok. So I just got a call from the person in charge of Adopt-A-Road. Right off the bat, there is a problem with the name. First off, she asked, “Is this a church?” Of course I responded no, and told her about the website, which she said she had already visited. She said that the sign would be making a statement, and I suggested, “What if we get rid of the work: Think?” She said that word wasn’t the problem. The issue is that she would be getting a lot of calls with complaints. Since I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on that subject, I thought I’d take the opportunity while on the phone to at least ask about the road choices, but they hadn’t even been sent up to the Department of Transportation for consideration yet because of the name issue. So, it was suggested that I think about it for a while and call her back.
I expected to encounter some difficulty, but not so soon in the process. It’s worth nothing that the lady seemed nice and I felt no personal affront. I can understand her position as the primary point of contact who would have to field all the phone calls.
I’ll do some searching/brainstorming on my own, but if any of you has any solid information I could provide her to defend our position when she receives a call, or if you have any ideas for a name that gets the point across without compromising our position too much, it would be much appreciated. I plan to call her back before the end of the business week.
Ok, so the more I think about it, I feel more inclined to fight for the word atheist before we try to resort to euphemisms. I've begun a draft of a response (pasted below). Your input is appreciated.
Thank you for your prompt call. I’ve been brainstorming with my group and other colleagues. One of the primary reasons we feel it is important to have the word atheist on the sign is to reduce the negative stigma associated with the word. This would show at least one way of doing something good in the community. Maybe if “Think Atheist” is too “in-your-face” for people driving by, maybe we can bury it a bit… How about “Baltimore Subgroup of Think Atheist”?
I understand your position as the primary point of contact. You have a job to do, without fielding complaints (which I hope wouldn’t be very many). Perhaps I can set up a P.O. Box to which people can send their thoughts/concerns, to which I would directly respond (in a thoughtful and respectful manner). I don’t want to make your life more difficult, but at the same time, our group does have a right to exist. There is separation of church and state, if a religious organization can adopt a road, a secular/atheist organization should have that same right.
Ok. Now we are post-call #2. I called to let the person in charge know that we would be working on an attempt to fast-track our non-profit status. This apparently would not make a difference. I was told signs are primarily for families, schools, and fraternal organizations. I asked if churches had been able to adopt roads and have their names on signs, and she said that youth groups/departments have. She said there have been instances where signs have had to be taken down and the road un-adopted, because people in the area thought they were offensive, and I gather they want to avoid that in the future. She informed me that other groups have been turned down from the start for similar reasons; I asked if she could give an example of one of them, but she couldn’t (I expected that to be confidential). I went into how the word is not inherently offensive (like a racial slur) and that we want to get rid of the negative stigma associated with it. We are a group that meets once a month, that wants to do something in the community, and Think Atheist happens to be our name. She did say that she would run it by her boss again. Apparently, not only does her boss have to approve, but their law office has to approve as well. She will keep our application open, and I said I would contact her again.
Here is the text from the application regarding Sign Specifications:
“DPW will install two signs designating each adopted section of roadway. These signs are intended to identify and recognize adopters, and to promote the Adopt-A-Road program, not to be an advertising or political forum. Therefore:
-DPW will have sold discretion regarding the size, color, design, text and placement of Adopt-A-Road signs.
-Only the actual name of the adopter will be included on the signs. No business logos, slogans, telephone numbers, addresses, titles of elective office, or statements will be permitted. Exceptions will be made for in memoriam statements using the following language: “(Adopter name) in memory of (name of deceased)”
-The signs shall not contain wording which, in the sole judgment of DPW is insulting or derogatory; is a term of bigotry or hostility; is racially or ethnically degrading; refers to sexual acts; is a profane, obscene or repulsive term; or appears to promote the use of illegal substances.
If, during the term of the Agreement, it is determined that the Adopter is not meeting the conditions of the Agreement, DPW reserves the right to terminate the Agreement and remove the signs. Any decisions made by DPW in implementing, administering and, if appropriate, terminating any agreement under the Adopt-A-Road program shall be final and not subject to appeal. If no program activity has occurred within six months of the posting of the signs, DPW will terminate the Agreement and remove the signs.”
"In memory of gods."
"Dedicated to A. Theist."
Maybe what we need is to find roads adopted by churches, and to be vocal about it.
Thanks for the input! I appreciate all suggestions.
I did specifically ask if churches had been able to adopt roads and have their names on signs, and the person I spoke to said that youth groups/departments have, but it didn't sound like actual churches did themselves.
However, if they continue their resistance, I might be able to request a list of active adopters, and we might be able to find some leverage there. I understand that she couldn't provide info on other groups that have been denied, but the accepted groups should be public record. For now, I'll wait for their move (which I should receive within the next two weeks). If they're willing to accept us without further intervention, then great. I'd like to resolve this with minimal conflict, especially since this will be a continual working relationship.
Good point... we could abstract it out to "Baltimore's Atheist Community"
I just received a call from the Baltimore County Office of Law. It looks like we'll get our name on a sign, but with a compromise. After "Think Atheist," we would need a comma and then some additional text like "a social networking group." Seems a very fair compromise; we get our full name intact, and if anything, the clarifying text is more of a bonus.
I’m coordinating to get some documentation together showing that we’re pursuing non-profit status. They would like to have some “official” documentation for our group in case someone questions us in the future.
In the meantime, I’d like to open the forum up for some brainstorming on what would be best for the “post-comma” text. Before we get too creative, the purpose is to either describe our organization, or establish us as part of a parent organization. I need to look into whether we’re officially part of the Atheist Alliance of America; since the organization’s president wrote a letter on our behalf (if we are a member, they would like documentation). I was told that it would be accepted to have “Think Atheist, a member of the Atheist Alliance of America.” Personally, I like it. The whole ordeal came about since they didn’t want the word “atheist” on a sign; this way, it’s on there twice. :-)