Yet another struggle for the defense of the freedom of speech, spearheaded by our ace lawyers, David Yerushalmi and Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center. “Pro-Israel Group Sues Pennsylvania Transportation Authority for Censoring Speech,” American Freedom Law Center, September 18, 2014:
Philadelphia, PA (September 18, 2014) — Today, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), a national, nonprofit Judeo-Christian law firm, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) for refusing to run a “Stop the Islamic Jew-Hatred” advertisement on SEPTA property. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of the advertisement’s sponsors, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and its co-founders, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.
In May, AFDI submitted the below advertisement to SEPTA’s advertising agent for display on SEPTA property:
As noted in the lawsuit, AFDI’s message is timely in light of the fact that many Jews (and Christians) are being persecuted in Islamic countries in the Middle East, and many of these countries receive aid from the United States. Moreover, the Israel / Palestinian conflict has drawn intense international media attention as Hamas is using human shields (mostly innocent women and children) to protect its rockets from Israel’s defense forces as the Islamic terrorist organization continues its deadly attack of Jews in Israel.
Although SEPTA accepts as a matter of policy and practice controversial political-issue, public-issue, and religious-issue advertisements, it rejected AFDI’s advertisement, claiming that the ad “tends to disparage or ridicule any person or group of persons on the basis of race, religious belief, age, sex, alienage, national origin, sickness or disability.”
David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented, “Across the country, we have successfully litigated cases where government transit authorities permit the Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas front groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations to run ads misleading the public about Jihad and Islamic Jew hatred. When our clients run ads exposing this Jew hatred, all of a sudden the transit authorities are worried about the ‘tone’ of the conversation and attempt to shut it down. A word of advice to government bureaucrats doing the Muslim Brotherhood’s bidding: we will sue you and you will lose. Act accordingly.”
Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, added, “SEPTA’s prior restraint on our client’s speech is not only wrongheaded, it is clearly unconstitutional. Under the First Amendment, the government is not permitted to impose special prohibitions on speakers who express views on disfavored subjects or on the basis of hostility towards the messenger or the underlying message expressed, which is precisely what SEPTA has done here.”
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