Friday, November 28, 2014

False Anti-Muslim Speech Protected By 1st Amendment

In American Freedom Defense Initiative v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ("SEPTA"), (ED PA, Nov. 25, 2014), a Pennsylvania federal district court granted a motion to exclude expert testimony on the falsity of language in an anti-Islam ad which an advocacy group wants to place on public buses. SEPTA refused to accept the ad under its policy to refuse copy that, among other things, disparages on the basis of religious belief.  AFDI sued claiming this rejection violates its free speech rights.  In the lawsuit, SEPTA sought to offer expert testimony that the ad's referring to Haj Amin al-Husseini as the “leader of the Muslim world” is false and that the statement “the Quar’an teaches Jew-Hatred” is “unfair and erroneous.” The court concluded however that the proposed testimony is irrelevant because the 1st Amendment protects false speech as well as accurate expression. The court also rejected as too attenuated the argument that the ad amounts to a fraudulent charitable solicitation.  The website listed in the ad links to a second website at which charitable contributions can be made. WND's report on the decision includes a photo of the disputed ad.