Money quotes from today's ruling:
"The AFDI Ad is not only protected speech—it is core political speech. The Ad expresses AFDI’s pro-Israel perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, and implicitly calls for a pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy with regard to that conflict. The AFDI Ad is, further, a form of response to political ads on the same subject that have appeared in the same space. As such, the AFDI Ad is afforded the highest level of protection under the First Amendment." Judge Engelmayor's ruling today
(“At the heart of the First Amendment is the recognition of the fundamental importance of the free flow of ideas and opinions on matters of public interest and concern.”)
"The Court, therefore, analyzes plaintiffs’ claim that MTA violated the First Amendment in rejecting the AFDI Ad “against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open."
Whatever weight might be assigned to the governmental interest in banning demeaning speech on the exterior of New York City buses on an even-handed basis, there is no good reason for protecting some individuals and groups, but not others, from such abuse. MTA’s no- demeaning standard, as currently formulated, is, therefore, inconsistent with the First Amendment.
To be sure, there are likely adherents to Jihad who are non-Muslims, such that the Ad can
literally be read to assail as savages all adherents to Jihad regardless of their religion—much as there assuredly are many adherents to Islam who do not accept Jihad, at least when defined as a violent crusade against enemies generally, or against Israel specifically. But, realistically, when it is read as a reasonable person would, the AFDI Ad plainly depicts Muslims—the primary adherents to this tenet of Islam—as “savages.”
AFDI triumphed in our lawsuit against the NYC MTA's ban on our pro-Israel ad. We won on all points. Straight down the line. Judge Engelmayer wrote a wonderful opinion. Brilliant. And AFDI is now on the law books. Freedom, freedom, freedom ...... the sweet, delicious taste of it.
This is a great victory for the First Amendment. The freedom of speech is increasingly threatened in the U.S. in recent years -- the Left and Islamic supremacists are doing all they can to rule honest discussion of Islamic jihad violence and Jew-hatred out of the realm of acceptable public discourse. Judge Engelmayer has struck a huge blow against this sinister authoritarian effort and for the freedom of speech that is the cornerstone of all our freedoms.
It is a super opinion. Read it here. Download Opinion
Truth will not be suppressed or embargoed.
Illustrating the MTA’s inconsistency, Engelmayer noted that “under MTA’s no-demeaning standard, an advertiser willing to pay for the privilege is today at liberty to place a demeaning ad on the side or back of a city bus that states any of the following: ‘Southerners are bigots’; ‘Upper West Siders are elitist snobs’; ‘Fat people are slobs’; ‘Blondes are bimbos’; ‘Lawyers are sleazebags’; or ‘The store clerks at Gristedes are rude and lazy.’”
“In light of that, disallowing a pro-Israel ad was clearly a politically correct, politically motivated denial of free speech,” said Pamela Geller, Executive Director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. “As such, Judge Engelamyer’s decision is crucial not just for AFDI and the MTA, but for the freedom of speech in general,” “The AFDI case has set a key legal precedent for the freedom of speech and won a great victory for the First Amendment.”
Geller added: “The freedom of speech is increasingly threatened in the U.S. in recent years -- the Left and Islamic supremacists are doing all they can to rule honest discussion of Islamic jihad violence and Jew-hatred out of the realm of acceptable public discourse. Judge Engelmayer has struck a huge blow against this sinister authoritarian effort and for the freedom of speech that is the cornerstone of all our freedoms. Truth will not be suppressed or embargoed.”
"This is an important case with serious constitutional ramifications for free speech not only in New York, but across the country," said Robert Muise, co-founder of American Freedom Law Center. "This opinion is extremely well-written, well-considered and will go down as an important decision protecting Free Speech on government property."
AFLC Victory: New York Federal Court Strikes Down “Demeaning” Speech Restriction; MTA Must Run Advertisement Opposing Jihad and Supporting Israel
New York, New York (July 20, 2012) — Earlier today, Federal Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, ruled that the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) restriction on “demeaning” speech was unconstitutional. The MTA had refused to run an anti-jihad advertisement that, according to the MTA, referred to Israel’s enemies as savages who engaged in jihad. The MTA flagged the advertisement that was set to run on the exterior of its buses, claiming that it violated the MTA’s policy against displaying “images or information that demean an individual or group of individuals on account of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation.”
The court struck down the MTA’s speech restriction as a violation of the First Amendment because the MTA, as a governmental agency, was permitting politically controversial speech, even demeaning speech, but not speech that demeaned specific groups or individuals that fit within the MTA’s protected classes (in this case, Muslims embracing savage jihad).
This ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed by the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) on behalf of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), Pamela Geller, and Robert Spencer, challenging the speech restriction and requesting that the court strike it down and order the MTA to run the advertisement.
The specific advertisement, which sparked the controversy, states, “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
This advertisement was offered as a direct response to an anti-Israel advertisement that was displayed on MTA property by a pro-Palestine group. The MTA approved the anti-Israel advertisement, which portrayed the Palestinians as being on the side of “peace and justice.” However, the MTA rejected AFDI’s advertisement, claiming that it violated its “demeaning” speech restriction.
Robert Muise, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of AFLC, commented: “The court’s ruling is exactly right. As a governmental agency that is subject to the requirements of the Constitution, the MTA cannot allow speech on the controversial subject of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and then pick and choose which messages are acceptable and which are not based on the content of the message or the viewpoint of the speaker. By doing so, the MTA is violating a fundamental principle of the First Amendment.”
As argued in the lawsuit, the MTA is mandated as a governmental agency to comply with federal and state laws, including the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, which prohibit the government from making content- and viewpoint-based restrictions on speech.
David Yerushalmi, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of AFLC, noted: “The court found that our client’s advertisement attacking savages who engage in jihad against Israel could be understood to be demeaning to those Muslims who support violent jihad against Israel. But the response to that is – so what? And that is effectively what the court said. The First Amendment is not designed to protect just polite, politically correct speech that offends no one. The First Amendment was specifically designed to protect those who dare challenge the political orthodoxy by quite rationally linking Islam’s sharia-mandated jihad against the ‘infidel’ Christians and Jews who dare occupy any part of the world that Islam claims as its own.”
Yerushalmi added, “Indeed, we have just recently learned how even the FBI and the military are afraid to investigate connections between Islam's jihad and violence, and it was this fear and politically correct censorship by FBI agents that permitted Major Hasan to carry-on a dialogue about jihad against infidels with the known terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki until Hassan ultimately acted on his sharia-mandated jihad and murdered 13 Americans and wounded 29 others.”
UPDATE: NY TIMES here: