Ninth Circuit to Hear Argument in Case involving Censorship of Pamela Geller Anti-Terrorism Ad


On Monday, June 15, 2015, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) will present oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in its appeal of a lower federal court ruling that denied AFLC’s motion for a preliminary injunction.  AFLC’s motion requested that the court order the King County, Washington, transit authority to display an anti-terrorism bus advertisement that it had refused to display.

The proposed advertisement (directly below) was submitted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and its executive directors, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

AFDI Terrorism Ad

AFDI’s anti-terrorism ad included the very same pictures, names, and a similar message from an earlier anti-terrorism advertisement sponsored by the U.S. State Department (directly below), which was accepted for display on King County buses.  The State Department advertisement displayed these “Faces of Global Terrorism” in an effort to “stop a terrorist” and “save lives,” offering “up to $25 million reward” for helping capture one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists.

FBI Terrorism Ad

It’s not surprising that of the thirty-two terrorists listed on the FBI’s most wanted global terrorists list at the time, thirty terrorists had Muslim names or were wanted for terrorism related to organizations conducting terrorist acts in the name of Islam.

However, after a Washington State politician and two Muslim-American advocacy groups complained because the list of wanted global terrorists in the State Department’s ad appeared to include only Muslim terrorists, the federal government terminated its “Faces of Global Terrorism” advertisement campaign.

In response to the government’s decision to remove its advertisement, AFDI created its own, similar advertisement to replace it.  Despite originally accepting the government’s advertisement, King County rejected AFDI’s ad, claiming that it was offensive to Muslims.

AFLC argued below that King County’s refusal to run the advertisement was an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech and therefore the court should order the government agency to display the advertisement immediately.  The district court judge disagreed, ruling that King County’s decision to reject the advertisement was “reasonable,” specifically noting that displaying pictures of Muslim and Arab terrorists and labeling them jihadis is offensive to Muslims.  AFLC immediately appealed that decision.

AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise, who will present argument before the Ninth Circuit, commented:

“We are confident that the Ninth Circuit will reverse the district court’s decision, which sacrifices free speech at the altar of political correctness.  Indeed, King County’s position is inconsistent with reality – namely, sharia-adherent jihadists pose a significant threat to our national security.  There is nothing ‘reasonable’ about denying this reality.  In fact, it is dangerous to do so.”