Three days ago, I had authored a post which had concerned threats/harassment/intimidation I had received from a person representing himself as a County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS) bus driver named Daniel Wittenbreder (who indeed exists). Daniel, writing on my Facebook profile, had posted “DONT YOU EVER SHOW YOUR FACE ON MY BUS YOU LITTLE PUNK” and told me “try it…” when I had said, “So, if I went on your bus at COLTS, would you refuse me?”. Daniel, between both his profile and my profile, also had some choice phrases for me including “little punk,” “you should be ashamed of yourself,” “the lord jesus christ will take care of you,” and an “atheist puke with an axe to grind.”
These comments, coming from someone representing himself as a bus driver for an entity which receives state, county, and federal funding are completely unacceptable. While one could argue that comments like this are simply ‘taking a stand’ or ‘expressing free speech,’ the line is crossed when a person represents himself as a COLTS bus driver and expresses willingness to deny services on a public transit system…and that is why I filed this complaint. Atheists — or anyone else because of religious belief or lack thereof — should not have to experience this intimidation.
After I had received these messages from Wittenbreder, I had filed a police report with my local police department concerning Wittenbreder’s comments. This morning, I received a message from COLTS’ solicitor:
We have received your complaint about Daniel Wittenbreder. Mr. Wittenbreder’s comments to you on Facebook were not authorized by COLTS and they are inappropriate. He will face discipline by COLTS for making them if it is proven he actually made them. He has been informed not to deny you service on a COLTS bus because of your atheist beliefs or any other beliefs you have. He is to refrain from communicating with you concerning your privileges and/rights to utilize the COLTS bus services. If you are denied service on a COLTS bus or someone threatens to deny you service on a COLTS bus, please advise me immediately. Thank you.
While COLTS did not do the right thing concerning the refusal of the “Atheists.” bus ad sponsored by American Atheists and the NEPA Freethought Society, COLTS has done the right thing in not standing for intimidation toward its customers. Hopefully COLTS will take another step in the right direction and authorize the “Atheists.” ad!