On Friday, July 20, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) won a major victory for the freedom of speech: Judge Paul A. Engelmayer of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority”s refusal to run our pro-Israel ad was “inconsistent with the First Amendment.”
The AFDI ad read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Defeat jihad. Support Israel.” The MTA refused to run it on the grounds that it was “demeaning” to term the jihadists who glory in the murder of Israeli civilians “savages,” and violated their policy against “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.”
This was the only ad that had been rejected as “demeaning” by the MTA since its standards for accepting and rejecting ads were adopted.
Engelmayer, however, determined that the MTA”s standards were inconsistent both in their formulation and their application, because it allowed ads that demeaned others on political and other grounds, but rejected this one that supposedly demeaned Muslims or Islamic jihad terrorists. He wrote in his opinion that “there is no good reason for protecting some individuals and groups, but not others, from such abuse.”
Illustrating the MTA”s inconsistency, Engelmayer noted that “under MTA”s no-demeaning standard, an advertiser willing to pay for the privilege is today at liberty to place a demeaning ad on the side or back of a city bus that states any of the following: “˜Southerners are bigots”; “˜Upper West Siders are elitist snobs”; “˜Fat people are slobs”; “˜Blondes are bimbos”; “˜Lawyers are sleazebags”; or “˜The store clerks at Gristedes are rude and lazy.–
Engelmayer’s ruling stated: “The AFDI Ad is not only protected speech””it is core political speech. The Ad expresses AFDI”s pro-Israel perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, and implicitly calls for a pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy with regard to that conflict. The AFDI Ad is, further, a form of response to political ads on the same subject that have appeared in the same space. As such, the AFDI Ad is afforded the highest level of protection under the First Amendment.”
“This is an enormous victory for freedom-loving people,” said Pamela Geller, Executive Director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. “Judge Engelmayer’s decision is crucial not just for AFDI and the MTA, but for the freedom of speech in general. The AFDI case has set a key legal precedent for the freedom of speech and won a great victory for the First Amendment.”
Geller added: “The freedom of speech is increasingly threatened in the U.S. in recent years — the Left and Islamic supremacists are doing all they can to rule honest discussion of Islamic jihad violence and Jew-hatred out of the realm of acceptable public discourse. Judge Engelmayer has struck a huge blow against this sinister authoritarian effort and for the freedom of speech that is the cornerstone of all our freedoms. Truth will not be suppressed or embargoed.”
AFDI Associate Director Robert Spencer said: “This is an extraordinarily encouraging ruling in these times when the freedom of speech is increasingly threatened. It strikes a severe blow against the effort by Islamic supremacist groups in the U.S., such as the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to establish Muslims and even Islamic jihad terrorists as a protected class, of whom criticism is forbidden by law.”
The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), Geller, and Spencer. AFLC lawyers David Yerushalmi and Robert Muise argued the case before Judge Engelmayer.