Friday, July 13, 2018

Bus Ad space Is Limited Forum, Allowing Rejection of Ads On Religious Matters

In Northeastern Pennsylvania Freethought Society v. County of Lackawanna Transit System, (MD PA, July 9, 2018), a Pennsylvania federal district court rejected a constitutional challenge to the policy that excluded controversial public issue advertising on Lackawanna buses. Among other things, the policy, in its latest version, excludes ads
that promote the existence or non-existence of a supreme deity, deities, being or  beings; that address, promote, criticize or attack a religion or religions, religious  beliefs or lack of religious beliefs; that directly quote or cite scriptures, religious text or texts involving religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs; or are otherwise religious in nature.
The suit was brought by the Freethought Society after its proposed ad was rejected.  In ruling for the Transit Authority, the court held that: 
COLTS’ advertising space is a limited forum and  that COLTS did not violate Freethought’s First Amendment free speech rights when  it refused to display Freethought’s advertisements containing the word “atheists” on COLTS’ buses.
Scranton Times Tribune reports on the decision.