Given past controversies over the messages appearing on city buses, it’s both strange and disappointing that a rainbow paint job has risen to that level.
In 2009, for example, controversy erupted over an atheist bus ad approved by Calgary Transit which read “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life.” Needless to say, a number of Christians and Muslims took offence. However, after realizing the futility of trying to have the atheist ad censored, they countered with their own ad, which referred people to the GodExists.ca website.
It was certainly reasonable for Calgary Transit to have accepted both ads, and it wasn’t long before the controversy subsided. What’s noteworthy, though, is that at no point did any bus drivers — be they believers or non-believers — speak out against either ad or refuse to drive a bus bearing an ad which conflicted with their beliefs. And that’s as it should be — obviously, the driver does not and is in no way expected to endorse the content that Calgary Transit might approve on or in the bus. The driver’s job is simply to drive the bus.
However, a bus driver by the name of Jesse Rau sees things differently. Rau is a Christian, he says, and as such he cannot “condone” homosexuality, nor can he condone a festival celebrating what he calls “radical sexual expression.”
Therefore, Rau is publicly declaring that he will not drive the rainbow-bedecked bus which Calgary Transit has running various routes leading up to Sunday’s parade, and will quit if forced to do so. Perhaps he should quit regardless, though, since his employer is proudly embracing and promoting something so fundamentally at odds with his beliefs.
In reality, Rau is not being asked to do anything other than his job. He’s not being asked to attend or endorse the Pride parade. Whatever his biblical beliefs on homosexuality happen to be, he’s not being asked to renounce or abandon them. For that matter, he hasn’t even been asked to drive the bus, and it’s not at all clear that there would be any repercussions for asking to switch to a different bus.
It was Rau who chose to make an issue of this, chose to go to the media, and chose to make very disparaging remarks about Pride. It seems that this is not just about the conscientious objector status of one lone bus driver, but rather an effort to try to shame Calgary Transit into distancing itself from Pride.
Rau is a member of Art Pawlowski’s controversial Street Church, which is well-known for its virulent anti-gay views. In fact, they believe that the Pride Festival, and Calgary’s embrace of tolerance and equality, is what led God to flood the city two years ago. It seems they’ve found another way to try to advance their agenda.
This probably all could have been handled quietly and internally if Rau was truly concerned about having to drive the bus. However, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Calgary Transit to tell Rau to do his job. What precedent might be set by allowing drivers to pick and choose the routes they drive based on whatever might happen to adorn each bus on any given day?
Other drivers surely have other deeply held beliefs. Maybe other evangelical types like Rau might object to ads promoting divorce attorneys or seafood restaurants. Perhaps there are vegetarian bus drivers who object to ads touting burger joints and steak houses. For that matter, bus drivers with various political affiliations might object to bus ads trumpeting a rival party. They don’t have to like it, but they do have to drive the bus.
Rau’s inflammatory comments may still bring him the martyrdom he apparently seeks. Ultimately, that’s his decision. At this point, however, Calgary Transit has nothing to apologize for.
Rob Breakenridge is the co-host of “Kingkade & Breakenridge” on NewsTalk 770 [email protected] Twitter: @RobBreakenridge