AFLC Sues NY MTA for Censoring Anti-Jihad Ad

On October 1, 2014, the American Freedom Law Center filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for refusing to run a “Hamas Killing Jews” advertisement on MTA buses.  The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of the advertisement’s sponsors, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and its co-founders, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

Last week, the MTA was under fire by public officials for running Ms. Geller’s displays critical of Islamic Jihad, and on Monday of this week, Ms. Geller compassionately acquiesced to a plea from the parents of James Foley to pull an advertisement depicting their son moments before his beheading.

Today, however, Ms. Geller instructed her attorneys from AFLC to file a federal lawsuit, challenging the MTA’s refusal to run the following ad:

Hamas TV--Killing Jews Ad

As noted in the lawsuit, the MTA’s rejection was based upon a “security assessment” by the MTA, claiming that it feared that some New Yorkers (presumably Muslims) would likely take the Hamas quote to kill Jews as a religious instruction and engage in imminent violence (presumably against Jews).

Ms. Geller’s message is timely in light of the fact that Hamas continues to call for Israel’s destruction.  Moreover, the Israel / Palestinian conflict has drawn intense international media attention as Hamas uses human shields (mostly women and children) to protect its rockets and jihadis as they set about to murder innocent Jewish men, women, and children.

David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented,

“Across the country, we have successfully litigated cases where government transit authorities permit 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 or conjure up some threat of violence.  This will now be the third time we have sued the MTA, and it will likely be the third successful time.  A word of advice to government bureaucrats doing the Muslim Brotherhood’s bidding: we will sue you and you will lose.  Act accordingly.”

Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, added,

“The MTA’s prior restraint on our client’s speech is not only wrongheaded, it is clearly unconstitutional.  Under the First Amendment, the government is not permitted to impose special prohibitions on speech out of fear that some members of the public might react violently to its content.  Quite simply, the First Amendment knows no heckler’s veto.”

Muise continued,

“If the MTA can get away with this obvious ploy to manufacture a threat when this ad has already run without incident in Chicago and San Francisco for months, it will use this pretext to shut down all unwanted speech.  This would not only make a mockery of the First Amendment, it would actually encourage the thuggery and violence the MTA now claims it fears.”