Late yesterday, a federal judge sitting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted the American Freedom Law Center’s (AFLC) motion for a preliminary injunction, holding that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) refusal to run a “Stop the Islamic Jew-Hatred” advertisement on its advertising space violated the First Amendment. As part of his ruling, the judge ordered SEPTA to run the ad. (Read the judge’s Memorandum Opinion here).
The motion was filed on behalf of the advertisement’s sponsors, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and its co-founders, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, and is part of a civil rights lawsuit filed against SEPTA last year.
In May of 2014, AFDI submitted the below advertisement for display on SEPTA’s advertising space:
SEPTA rejected the ad, claiming that it “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.”
In its court filings, AFLC argued that SEPTA’s speech restriction is content- and viewpoint-based in violation of the First Amendment. The federal judge agreed with AFLC on all of the issues presented, holding “that SEPTA’s anti-disparagement standard violates the First Amendment,” and stating further that he was “compelled to [reach this conclusion] under established First Amendment precedent.”
Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented,
“AFLC has made it clear in lawsuits across the country that government censorship of speech will not stand in the face of serious judicial scrutiny. Indeed, it is refreshing, but unfortunately rare these days, to have a case before a judge who is ‘compelled’ by the law and not by his only personal biases or political agenda when deciding important constitutional issues.”
David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, added,
“Across the country, we have successfully litigated cases where government transit authorities permit the Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas front groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations to run ads misleading the public about Jihad and Islamic Jew hatred. When our clients run ads exposing this Jew hatred, all of a sudden the transit authorities are worried about the ‘tone’ of the conversation and attempt to shut it down. A word of advice to government bureaucrats doing the Muslim Brotherhood’s bidding: we will sue you and you will lose. Act accordingly.”