A federal appeals court is being asked to reverse a lower court decision that banned the American Freedom Defense Initiative from featuring in a bus ad the faces of men already identified by the U.S. government as suspected terrorists.
“This case is a classic articulation of political correctness as a form of tyranny, which violates our fundamental right to freedom [of] speech guaranteed by the First Amendment,” said Robert Muise, co-founder of the American Freedom Law Center, which is working on the AFDI case.
“Simply put, the government’s position is inconsistent with reality – namely, Shariah-adherent jihadists pose a significant threat to our national security.”
The King County, Wash., transit system, in the Seattle area, had rejected AFDI’s ad that featured a most-wanted list of terror suspects compiled by the FBI. The transit agency claimed the ad was “false,” “demeaning” and “objectionable.”
But the transit agency previously had posted essentially the same ad when it was prepared by the government, which generated political pressure from Islamic groups.
Appealing the ruling from Judge Richard Jones to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the lawyers explained that the ad included “pictures, names and a similar message from an earlier anti-terrorism advertisement sponsored by the U.S. Statement Department, which was accepted for display on King County buses.”
“The State Department advertisement depicted the ‘Faces of Global Terrorism’ in an effort to ‘stop a terrorist now’ and ‘save lives.’ In addition, the advertisement offered an ‘up to $25 million reward’ for helping to capture one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists,” the appeal explains.
AFLC now is asking the 9th Circuit to reverse the lower court decision and tell King County’s transit operations to run its own ad, which was based on the government promotion.
The lawyers, who have fought similar battles in other cities around the country over the past several years, said that there is nothing materially false about the advertisement. They note the ad says nothing more “than the State Department’s ‘Faces of Global Terrorism’ advertisement, which the county accepted.”
Second, they explain, the idea that identifying terror suspects listed by the federal government as suspects was “demeaning” is entirely subjective.
“What prompted plaintiffs to propose this advertisement in the first instance was the State Department’s willingness to acquiesce to political correctness by accepting the ‘viewpoint’ that it is improper to highlight … (that Islam that is practiced by the jihadis),” the argument explained.
“Indeed, there is ample evidence in the record that these most wanted ‘global terrorists’ are aligned with Islamic terrorist organizations,” the brief explained. “Is it the district court’s viewpoint that those who engage in terrorist acts in the name of al-Shabaab (which is formally aligned with al-Qaida), the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Taliban, or al-Qaida, as examples, are not jihadis? Based on what? As plaintiffs demonstrated below, the use of the term ‘jihadis’ to describe the global terrorists pictured in the advertisement is not only factually accurate, but, more important, it expresses plaintiffs’ viewpoint on the issue of global terrorism.
“It is clear to any reasonable person that the use of the accurate descriptor ‘jihadi’ in the context of global terrorism does not disparage those Muslims engaging in a self-reflective internal struggle. And to further illustrate this point, federal court opinions in cases prosecuting self-described ‘jihadis’ routinely utilize that descriptor.”
The brief said the principle “that has emerged from [Supreme Court] cases is that the First Amendment forbids the government to regulate speech in ways that favor some viewpoints or ideas at the expense of others.”
“When the government targets not subject matter, but particular views taken by speakers on a subject, the violation of the First Amendment is all the more blatant,” the brief said.
“Here, the content of plaintiffs’ message (and thus its subject matter) is permissible in this forum, as evidenced by the fact that the county had previously accepted the same message content that was submitted by the State Department (‘Faces of Global Terrorism’), and the county subsequently accepted another State Department advertisement (‘Stop a terrorist. Save lives.’) that addressed the same subject matter: terrorism.
“Consequently, it is not the subject matter that is being restricted, but plaintiffs’ viewpoint on the subject. This is a classic form of viewpoint discrimination that is prohibited in all forums,” the brief argued.
The ad is one among many that AFDI executives Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have used across America to spread warnings about the threat of Islamic terrorism.
The government’s ad:
The AFDI ad:
The AFDI ad pictured a long list of suspects compiled by the government, including “30 out of the 32 listed terrorists [who] had Muslim names or are wanted for terrorism related to organizations conducting terrorist acts in the name of Islam.”
Geller and Spencer repeatedly have been forced to fight for their speech rights.
The ad stated: “Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get Answers!”
During depositions taken in the case, SMART officials testified that “political,” for purposes of its advertising guidelines, means “any advocacy of a position of any politicized issue.”
But Muise argued there the U.S. Supreme Court has warned “the danger of censorship and of abridgment of our precious First Amendment freedoms is great where officials have unbridled discretion to determine which messages are acceptable and which are not.”
“Indeed, a speech restriction violates the First Amendment when it grants a public official such broad discretion that the official’s decision to limit speech is not constrained by objective criteria, but rests on ambiguous and subjective reasons, as in this case,” he said.
The legal team has pointed out that the Detroit transit system already had accepted political ads, including one from the Detroit Area Coalition of Reason, an atheist organization which, by its own admission, engages in “separation of state and church activism.”
In each case, efforts to censor the ads have been struck down by courts.
In a commentary on WND, Geller wrote that the original ad was “a publicity campaign sponsored by the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, or RFJ.”
“But then the leftists and Islamic supremacists complained that the ads were ‘Islamophobic,’ and they came down – and unbelievably, Seattle is refusing to allow my group, the AFDI, to put them back up.
“We have asked that the ads be put up forthwith, as the county’s refusal to run them is an unconstitutional restriction on our freedom of speech. Moreover, the RFJ program has been successful: Through it, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security has paid more than $125 million to more than 80 people who offered genuine information that led to jihadis being jailed and prevented acts of jihadist terror. This program was instrumental in leading to the arrest of jihadist Ramzi Yousef, who is now in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center jihad bombing. In short, this program has saved lives,” she wrote.
Geller said the FBI “is putting Americans at risk by submitting to the outrageous demands of Islamic supremacists.”
“It is not the fault of the FBI that the world’s most dangerous terrorists are jihadists. That is the reality. You cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality,” she said.
“Capturing these mass murderers is significantly more important than propping up the fictional narrative of victimhood and the nonsensical hurt feelings. People are being slaughtered every day in jihad attacks,” Geller wrote.