Seattle, Washington (October 10, 2013) — Late yesterday, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), a national, nonprofit Judeo-Christian law firm, filed a motion asking the federal court in Seattle, Washington, to order the King County transit authorities to run Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s anti-terrorism advertisement “forthwith” because the County’s refusal to run the advertisement is an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech. AFLC is requesting that the court force the County to display the advertisement immediately, pending the outcome of the litigation.
The lawsuit, filed by AFLC in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle on behalf of Geller, Spencer, and their organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), alleges that King County refused to run an AFDI anti-terrorism advertisement that displayed photographs of global terrorists from the FBI’s most wanted list. According to the complaint, in June of this year, King County displayed an advertisement submitted by the federal government that depicted the “Faces of Global Terrorism” in an effort to “stop a terrorist” and “save lives.” The advertisement offered an “up to $25 million reward” for helping to capture one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists.
The terrorists identified in the advertisement are also found on the FBI’s most wanted global terrorists list, which is posted on the FBI’s website. This list includes pictures and “wanted posters” for thirty-two terrorists. Of the thirty-two listed terrorists, thirty are individuals with Muslim names or are wanted for terrorism related to organizations conducting terrorist acts in the name of Islam.
According news reports at the time, the federal government terminated its “Faces of Global Terrorism” advertisement campaign after receiving complaints from politicians and advocacy groups that took offense that the list of wanted global terrorists pictured in the advertisement appeared to include only Muslim terrorists.
Shortly after the government pulled the advertisement, Geller and Spencer, on behalf of AFDI, submitted an advertisement to King County that included the same pictures, names, and message as the government’s earlier display.
David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented:
“Our government’s incessant desire to appease Islamic terrorist apologists like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood front group operating here in the United States with impunity, is literally placing all American citizens at serious risk. Consequently, if the government won’t identify our enemy, we will make certain our clients can.”
Despite having previously accepted the federal government’s “Faces of Global Terrorism” advertisement, on August 15, King County rejected AFDI’s advertisement, claiming that it contains (1) “material that is or that the sponsor reasonably should have known is false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive or would constitute a tort of defamation or invasion of privacy”; (2) “material that demeans or disparages an individual, group of individuals or entity”; and (3) “material that is so objectionable as to be reasonably foreseeable that it will result in harm to, disruption of or interference with the transportation system” in violation of the County’s Transit Advertising Policy.
AFLC has represented Geller, Spencer, and AFDI successfully in federal lawsuits across the country, most notably in New York and Washington, D.C., where the courts have ordered the transit authorities to run AFDI’s anti-terrorism advertisements. In both of those cases, the transit authorities were forced to pay substantial legal fees to AFLC.
Earlier this year, the Chicago transit authority initially refused to run an AFDI “anti-jihad” advertisement, only to capitulate after stating in a letter that while the transit authorities considered the advertisement “morally reprehensible,” they were aware of AFLC’s successful litigation in New York and Washington. In that case, Yerushalmi commented, “the CTA has capitulated grudgingly, apparently, to the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise remarked upon filing the motion:
“King County’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 speakers who express views on disfavored subjects or on the basis of hostility towards the messenger or the underlying message expressed.”
“It is quite evident, based on the fact that King County initially accepted the federal government’s advertisement only to have the feds pull the ad for fear of offending Muslims, that King County is now suffering from the quite debilitating disease of political correctness. And there is little doubt that King County officials also dislike the messenger—our clients—who are doing a great service by alerting all Americans to the dangers of sharia and its followers.”
The federal judge presiding over this lawsuit is the Honorable Richard A. Jones, who is highly regarded as a jurist by the lawyers who appear before him. As reported by the Seattle Times in a 2007 article, he is the half-brother of the well-known musician, Quincy Jones.