A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments on a proposal to put ads on vehicles of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York that proclaim, “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”
The government transportation agency refused to allow the ads to run, claiming that they were “demeaning” to a group of people.
But that decision, allege attorneys for the American Freedom Law Center, violates the Constitution’s protections on free speech.
The hearing is scheduled tomorrow in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York before Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.
AFLC attorneys want the court to strike down the MTA’s restriction on the anti-jihad bus ads, claiming the restrictions violates the First Amendment.
The Thomas More Law Center also has been integral in arguing the case for free speech.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who wanted to post the ad in response to an anti-Israel posting that already has been displayed on MTA property.
The ad, by a pro-Palestinian organization, portrayed Palestinians as being on the side of “peace and justice.’
Attorneys for Geller and Spencer said the government is prohibited from imposing content- and viewpoint-based restrictions on speech.
“As a governmental agency that is subject to the requirements of the Constitution, the MTA cannot allow speech on the controversial subject of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and then pick and choose which messages are acceptable and which are not based on the content or viewpoint,” said Robert Muise, co-founder and senior counsel for the AFLC.
“By doing so, the MTA is violating a fundamental principle of the First Amendment,” he said.
Among the topics expected to come up are the meaning of jihad in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli debate, and whether the MTA has any objective standards to determining what is “demeaning.”
The lawsuit had been filed last fall over the refusal by the MTA to accept advertising promoting Israel – a campaign assembled by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, Geller and Spencer.
The government transportation system previously has allowed slogans such as: “Muslims for Peace, Love for All, Hatred for None … WHY ISLAM” as well as “A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?”
And it allowed the pro-Palestinian, “Be on our side. We are the side of peace and justice. End U.S. military aid to Israel.”
The AFDI submitted its proposed ad to CSB Outdoor, which is an agent for the MTA. It was a political message that responded directly to the pro-Palestine message posted earlier, sponsors said.
“The anti-Israeli advertisement suggests that Israel’s military is the impediment to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and that U.S. military aid to Israel also acts as an impediment to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. In other words, the anti-Israel advertisement blames Israel, its military, and U.S. military aid to Israel as the cause of Palestinian terror directed against innocent civilians in Israel and abroad.”
But the MTA said it wouldn’t accept the pro-Israel ad.
The real effect is that a viewpoint that the U.S. foreign policy supporting Israel in the face of savage violence is correct is being censored, officials said.
“The Constitution does not permit the government, in this case the MTA, to take sides on political issues by silencing one side of the debate,” Muise said.
In a commentary about the dispute, Geller wrote that similar issues have come up in Seattle, San Francisco and Washington.
“The ad is actually referring to the Islamic jihadists who are determined to destroy Israel. And they are savage,” she wrote. “Truth is radical. Morality is radical. But a genocidal ideology is not radical or savage.”
Her book, “Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance,” also documents such situations.
“Tell me again why the word ‘savage’ is inaccurate. Everyone is shocked (shocked, I tell ya) by the use of the word savage for savages. As long as the Palestinian Authority continues its savage policy to foment violence and promote hatred, and teaches its children to hate, the number of young Muslims willing to blow themselves up or to slit Israeli throats will continue to increase. That is savage. The Palestinian Authority propaganda of ‘Holocaust denial, racial slurs, anti-Jewish epithets and glorification of terrorists’ is savage,” she wrote.