The recent ruling by Judge McMahon to allow political ads by Muslims, but not our political ads, has proven our very point. The government cannot pick and choose what political messages it will or will not support. That’s Venezuela, not America.
The New York Times has weighed in and come out unequivocally in support of our ads and our First Amendment rights.
“The answer to distasteful and uncivil speech is more, and more civilized, speech.” The ban on any speech criticizing jihad and sharia is in accordance with the blasphemy laws under the sharia (you cannot criticize Islam.) The MTA is imposing sharia law, whether they know it or not.
The Times is on our side and is urging the MTA to withdraw the ban on our ads. This is an historic fight in the life blood of our freedom — the First Amendment. Whether we can prevail under Red Bill deBlasio is questionable at best. But we won’t stop fighting. Contribute here.
“The M.T.A. Board Should Loosen Up on Advocacy Ads,”
Advertising on subways, buses and commuter trains in the New York City area brings in almost $140 million a year with mostly inoffensive promotions for online grocers or the latest way to store your extra stuff. Yet, one small slice of that much-needed revenue — $1 million a year from political advocacy — has been causing headaches for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the region’s mass transit system.
The M.T.A.’s latest difficulty began last year when its board rejected a harsh ad from the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an anti-Islam group. The ad depicted a man with a scarf across his face with the message “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah,” attributed to “Hamas MTV.” The display included the comment, “That’s his Jihad. What’s yours?”
After the group sued, Judge John Koeltl of Federal District Court ruled that the ad was protected speech and ordered the M.T.A. to display it. The M.T.A. board responded by voting in April for a flat ban on all advertising that is “political in nature.” That rule promptly gave rise to other concerns. An ad for a bank promoting an increase in the minimum wage was removed because it appeared to touch on a political issue. The M.T.A. board also voted to ban ads created by two Muslim comedians for a film called “The Muslims Are Coming!” The production company sued, and the M.T.A. decision was reversed this month by Judge Colleen McMahon of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, who said that suppressing what was clearly a comedy was “utterly unreasonable.”
Two pieces of advice for the M.T.A. board: First, rather than appeal Judge McMahon’s decision, run the comedians’ ad. Second, roll back the April ban on ads with political messages and reinstate the standard that was adopted in 2012. That standard permitted the display of “a wide variety of communications … that express viewpoints on matters of public concern.” As the board noted at the time, “the answer to distasteful and uncivil speech is more, and more civilized, speech.”
Adam Lisberg, a spokesman for the M.T.A., said that on the matter of provocative ads, “we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.” The wise course would be to follow the advice of Christopher Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, who has argued repeatedly that New York’s public transit system is akin to a “public square,” and that the agency should “put the political ads back up, and when things get controversial, that’s life.”
The ad from the American Freedom Defense Initiative was indeed offensive and similar ads have been banned in other cities’ transit systems. But this kind splenetic speech should be allowed and countered openly with more speech.
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