“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The savages, in this context, refer to either Palestinians or Muslims. Pretty rude, right? The Metropolitan Transportation Authority agrees. That’s why they banned this American Freedom Defense Initiative’s pro-Israel, anti-Islam ad from city busses, reports The New York Times.
Of course, any time a public agency rejects someone’s political speech, a lawsuit results. And this time, the speaker won … kinda.
MTA's policy prohibits advertisements that demean individuals or groups based on their race, color, religion, national origin, or a few other enumerated categories. Obviously, such an advertisement would violate that policy.
However, United States District Court Judge Paul A. Engelmayer ruled today that the MTA's policy violated the sponsoring group's First Amendment Freedom of Speech rights.
The First Amendment protects most, but not all speech. And restrictions on content must be view-point neutral. Otherwise, our public agencies would become the arbiter of what speech is proper and what is not. And then we wouldn't be able to criticize Boehner, Bush, or Barack. Where's the fun in that?
The MTA is certainly within their rights to prohibit speech that demeans or harasses. Hate speech does not belong on the side of a bus. After all, no one would want to see swastikas or burning crosses on the side of a bus.
However, according to the court, the MTA's policy, as currently formulated, is flawed. It protects an enumerated list of certain groups of people. It doesn't protect others. In short, it blocks speech that the policy-makers find offensive while allowing other derogatory speech. Amongst the examples cited by the court were "Blondes are bimbos" and "Lawyers are sleazebags."
Count this blogger as offended by the court. On both counts.
According to Newsday, while the MTA may have lost the battle, they have not lost the war. The court put a thirty-day hold on the decision to allow the MTA to analyze and possibly amend their policy to comply with the decision. If they can come up with a constitutional policy, they might be able to continue to keep the "savages" billboards down.
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