A good news story for a change. I love some of the comments in the article. If the Hamas group CAIR sues HART, we will be there with our real jihad ads. Bank on it.
HART rejects ad from Council on American-Islamic Relations for second time this year CLTampa, Aug 5, 2013 ,
Earlier this year, the HART board rejected this ad
the second time this year, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit
(HART) has rejected an ad submitted by the Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR). The transportation organization cited its policy that
prohibits promoting a religious faith or organization.
Last December, the Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group
announced an ad campaign to reclaim the word jihad from extremists, and
began posting such "My Jihad" ads in transit systems in San Francisco and Washington D.C.
But HART rejected the ad earlier this year, citing its policy.
After working with HART management, CAIR submitted a much different
ad that removed the word jihad and instead showed a group of Muslims
next to the phrase, "Embracing diversity at work. Defending Civil Rights
in the Community."
Although HART's attorney David Smith felt the new ad was appropriate,
the HART board rejected it today. Only County Commissioner Kevin
Beckner and HART chair Fran Davin dissented.
Beckner was upset after the vote, saying that "once
again," the Hillsborough County government showed it doesn't care about
diversity in the community.
Before the board members began their discussion, Smith went through a
lengthy explanation of commercial speech as defined by the Supreme
Court, as well as the board's own policy when it comes to what is
acceptable in terms of an ad's content. He said whatever they decided
needed to be consistent, non-arbitrary and non-capricious. He also said
regardless of how they voted, there could still be a First Amendment
legal challenge coming their way.
Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez said that the board's current
policy is pretty straightforward when it comes to not allowing religious
groups to advertise. He said if the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference (a civil rights group that fought segregation the 1960's)
wanted to advertise with HART, they would also face rejection like CAIR.
Board member Ann Madden said she received plenty of emails when CAIR
proposed its "My Jihad" ad earlier this year, much of them "not
rational." But she worried about how HART bus drivers would be able to
express their displeasure if the new CAIR ad was affixed on their bus.
Board member Wallace Bowers said even though the new ad completely
downplayed the group's religious aspect, the intent had not changed, and
therefore the board should reject it.
Commissioner Mark Sharpe agreed with Bowers. He said CAIR's message
was honorable, but "I think it's very clear it would be a violation of
There were two members of the public who spoke out against CAIR's
proposal, including Jefferson Kaster — a judge advocate with the U.S.
Marine Corps Forces Central Command — who at one point compared CAIR to
"Does it matter what it says?" he asked the board, referring to the
new ad language. "Or does it matter what the group does? And what they
stand for, their values? It is very important." Kaster then asked if a
HART bus had a CAIR ad on its side, "Would a Jew want to want ride that
bus? Would a Christian want to ride that bus?"
He also reacted to Beckner's comment about diversity, and said it's not the agency's job to advance that notion.
"It's everybody's responsibility to advance multi-cultural diversity
and understanding. If you had spent a quarter of the time that I have
with this community, you would recognize what they do with the poor, for
the indigent, and how much they want to interact with our community.
But when you put out false ideas … and you try to express your
'American' values simply because you don't look like them, sir, that
doesn't advances anybody's causes in our community. And it certainly
doesn't define real American values that makes this country a great
melting pot for everyone," the county commissioner said.
CAIR and controversy seem to go together, especially in Hillsborough
County. Last year, school board candidate Terry Kemple tried to overturn
the board's policy of allowing representatives from CAIR to speak at
local schools. Her campaign began after Hassan Shibley from the Tampa
CAIR chapter spoke at Steinbrenner High in 2011.
Kemple and other critics contend that CAIR is affiliated with terrorist groups. For a primary source, they cite the U.S. Government's deeming of CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2007 Texas case.
Last year, CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said by using
'jihad' in the campaign, CAIR was "reclaiming jihad from the Muslim and
anti-Muslim extremists who ironically, but not surprisingly, see eye to
eye on jihad."
Smith was directed by the board to review portions of the current policy when it comes to accepting such ads.
CL has reached out to CAIR for comment. We'll update this page if and when a representative of the organization responds.
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