On February 4, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) notified the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) that it will accept several proposed “counter-jihad” advertisements submitted by AFLC’s clients, the Freedom Defense Initiative (FDI) and its executive directors, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. FDI’s proposed advertisements are in response to an advertisement campaign brought by the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a self-described Muslim public interest law firm that has been identified by the FBI as a Muslim Brotherhood front group. The CTA had originally rejected FDI’s advertisements after CAIR-Chicago claimed in a “cease and desist” letter to FDI that the proposed ads violated CAIR’s trademark and trade dress rights in the mark #MYJIHAD, which appeared in CAIR’s earlier advertisements.
In a formal response to CAIR-Chicago’s allegations, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi sent an email to the CTA on January 13, which highlighted the letter’s factual and legal inconsistencies regarding trademark and copyright law. In the email, Yerushalmi also warned the CTA that to reject FDI’s advertisements would violate the Constitution and would result in AFLC filing an immediate federal lawsuit.
Yerushalmi commented: “There is simply no legal basis for the CTA to reject our clients’ proposed advertisements. These ads are classic speech in a public forum and in direct response to CAIR’s ads, which the CTA permitted. Just because CAIR or anybody else opposes our clients’ message does not allow the CTA to adopt ‘the heckler’s veto.’ Indeed, the Constitution forbids them to do so.”
In December 2012, CAIR-Chicago began running a series of bus displays in Chicago as part of its “#MyJihad” propaganda campaign, which was launched in part to “reclaim Islam” by “educating the public” about the “proper meaning of Jihad.”
One of the #MyJihad ads is as follows:
In response, FDI – a human rights organization that opposes the implementation of sharia law – submitted several “counter-jihad” advertisements, which demonstrate how sharia-adherent Muslims use Islamic texts and teachings to promote jihad by advocating violence. The proposed advertisements, which were slightly modified at the request of the CTA, feature, among others, quotes by Osama bin Laden and the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shazad, as well as a statement from one of the victims of the Fort Hood massacre. Two of FDI’s proposed advertisements are as follows:
The proposed advertisements are expected to begin running on Chicago city buses within the month.
In a letter informing AFLC that the CTA had capitulated and agreed to run FDI’s advertisements, Karen G. Seimetz, the CTA’s General Counsel, admitted that the CTA had decided to run the advertisements out of fear of losing in court given AFLC’s prior courtroom victories on behalf of its client in New York and in Washington, D.C. This, however, did not prevent Seimetz from slamming the advertisements as “morally reprehensible — advocating racism, hatred and intolerance of cultural diversity.”
Yerushalmi immediately responded to these false claims in an email to Seimetz, which stated, in part: “For a lawyer employed by a state entity, your comments are both inappropriate and logically inept. My client’s ad advocates no such thing. That suggests, of course, that your commentary is a political cover for the CTA, which in turn speaks to the lack of intellectual integrity and moral rectitude of both the CTA and its spokespersons.”
Yerushalmi continued: “Be that as it may, the CTA has capitulated grudgingly, apparently, to the First Amendment of the Constitution. And, apparently, we have my clients to thank for that.”