New York City MTA required to run pro-Israel ads, judge rules

MTA sued after ad refusal

A federal judge said the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority violated a group’s free speech rights by refusing to run potentially offensive ads.

American Freedom Defense Initiative sought to place an ad that said, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man,” The New York Times reported.  The ad also called for people to “Support Israel” and “Defeat Jihad.”

The MTA refused to run the ads, saying it violated their policy against running derogatory ads against, among other things, people’s race, religion and nationality. They told the initiative they could revise and resubmit.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative instead sued in 2011, claiming the transit authority’s policy violated their free speech rights.

Federal Judge Paul A. Engelmayer ruled Friday, July 20,  in the group’s favor.

The proposed ad represents political speech and falls within First Amendment protections, Engelmayer said.

Engelmayer said the MTA’s policy, though well-intended, violates free speech rights; they cannot allow some types of negative ads and not others.

He praised the transportation agency’s effort to minimize harmful speech, but said it cannot selectively allow some types of discriminatory speech and not others.

Engelmayer suspended the ruling for 30 days, during which the MTA can attempt to make their policy constitutional.

Read Reuters and The New York Times coverage of and New York Daily News opinion on the ruling.

MTA asked to take down other ads

In a related incident, an elected New York official asked the MTA to take down ads showing the shrinking geography of Palestine and growth of Israel.

Assembly member Robert Castelli wrote a letter to the MTA saying the ads were offensive to the Jewish community and created disharmony. His letter appealed to the authority to take down the ads. However, given Englemayer’s recent ruling, Castelli may not have success with his petition.

The Center for Peace in Israel and Palestine paid for the ads.

Read more here.

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with the Society of Professional Journalists. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email –  wevans@hq.spj.org –  or on twitter – @whitevs7

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