Friday, March 13, 2015

Philadelphia Transit System Must Accept Anti-Muslim Ad

In American Freedom Defense Initiative ("AFDI") v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, (ED PA, March 11, 2015), a Pennsylvania federal district court granted a preliminary injunction requiring Philadelphia's transit system to accept a controversial anti-Muslim ad on its buses.  AFDI sought to purchase space for an ad that reads in part: "Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Quran." The ad pictures Adolph Hitler meeting with an Arab leader.  SEPTA had rejected the ad under its policy to prohibit: "Advertising that 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." The court held, however, that this is an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech in a designated public forum. It added:
[I]t is clear that the anti-disparagement standard promulgated by SEPTA was a principled attempt to limit hurtful, disparaging advertisements. While certainly laudable, such aspirations do not, unfortunately, cure First Amendment violations.
AP reports on the decision.