A federal judge today ordered the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to accept an advertisement for the sides of buses that pleads, “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
Robert Muise, of the American Freedom Law Center, said, “The court’s ruling is exactly right. 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 of the message or the viewpoint of the speaker.”
He continued, “By doing so, the MTA is violating a fundamental principle of the First Amendment.”
The case also has involved the Thomas More Law Center, which noted that the MTA witnesses earlier argued that “Muslims for Peace, Love for All, Hatred for None … WHY ISLAM ” and “A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?” were fine, but the pro-Israeli message was not.
The ruling comes from U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. His decision said the MTA’s ban on “demeaning” speech was unconstitutional.
The MTA had refused to run an anti-jihad advertisement that, according to the MTA, referred to Israel’s enemies as savages who engaged in jihad. The MTA flagged the advertisement that was set to run on the exterior of its buses, claiming that it violated the MTA’s policy against displaying “images or information that demean an individual or group of individuals on account of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation.”
But the court noted that politically controversial speech, even demeaning speech, already had been allowed on the buses, and the MTA was restricting only that speech which “demeaned specific groups or individuals that fit within the MTA’s protected classes.”
The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed by the AFLC on behalf of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.
The specific advertisement sparking the controversy states, “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
It was in response to MTA ads that portrayed Palestinians as being on the side of “peace and justice.”
The lawsuit argued the MTA is mandated as a governmental agency to comply with federal and state laws, including the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, which prohibit the government from making content- and viewpoint-based restrictions on speech.
David Yerushalmi, senior counsel of AFLC, noted: “The court found that our client’s advertisement attacking savages who engage in jihad against Israel could be understood to be demeaning to those Muslims who support violent jihad against Israel. But the response to that is – so what? And that is effectively what the court said. The First Amendment is not designed to protect just polite, politically correct speech that offends no one. The First Amendment was specifically designed to protect those who dare challenge the political orthodoxy by quite rationally linking Islam’s Shariah-mandated jihad against the ‘infidel’ Christians and Jews who dare occupy any part of the world that Islam claims as its own.”
Before the ruling, during was an evidentiary hearing where Yerushalmi conducted a two-hour cross-examination of the MTA official in charge of advertisements and Muise presented oral argument, explaining why the speech restriction violated the First Amendment.
“There is no question that Judge Engelmayer considered this an important case with serious constitutional ramifications for free speech not only in New York, but across the country,” 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.
“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.
Her book, “Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance,” documents cases similar to the New York dispute.