The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit on April 28, 2015, against the County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS) over its refusal to allow a local atheist group, the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society, to advertise on its buses. The lawsuit argues that the transit system violated NEPA Freethought Society’s free speech rights by rejecting its ads because of the group’s views.

On June 25, 2015, COLTS moved to dismiss the lawsuit.  The court denied COLTS’ motion on January 27, 2016, allowing the parties to proceed with discovery.

In July 2016, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The court denied both motions in April 2017. The court held a bench trial before Judge Mannion at the federal courthouse in Scranton on November 13, 2017. The judge ruled in favor of the government on July 9, 2018.

Press Releases


Mary Catherine Roper & Molly Tack-Hooper (ACLU of Pennsylvania); Theresa E. Loscalzo, Stephen J. Shapiro & Benjamin Wanger (Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP)

Date filed

April 28, 2015


U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania