Wednesday, October 28, 2020

6th Circuit: Bus Ad Ban Is Unconstituitonal

In American Freedom Defense Initiative v. Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), (6th Cir., Oct. 23, 2020), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held unconstitutional a Detroit public transit authority's rejections of an ad aimed at Muslims considering leaving Islam. The ad read:

Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got Questions? Get Answers!

The ads were rejected under rules banning political ads and ads that hold up a group of people to scorn or ridicule.  The court said in part:

SMART’s ban on “political” ads is unreasonable for the same reason that a state’s ban on “political” apparel at polling places is unreasonable: SMART offers no “sensible basis for distinguishing what may come in from what must stay out.” Mansky, 138 S. Ct. at 1888. Likewise, SMART’s ban on ads that engage in “scorn or ridicule” is not viewpoint neutral for the same reason that a ban on trademarks that disparage people is not viewpoint neutral: For any group, “an applicant may [display] a positive or benign [ad] but not a derogatory one.” Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744.

Courthouse News Service reports on the decision. [Thanks to Steven H. Sholk for the lead.]