MTA Changes Policy to Avert ‘Killing Jews’ Ad

     MANHATTAN (CN) – With the Metropolitan Transit Authority now banning political ads altogether, a group that wants to run anti-Islamic advertising filed a notice of appeal Monday.
     The American Defense Freedom Initiative (AFDI) campaign in question sought to splash the message “Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah” on New York City buses and subways.
     Labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the AFDI designed the campaign after the “My Jihad” campaign by the Council on American Islamic Relations struck a chord with commuters in other cities.
     While positive CAIR messages described the “jihad … to build friendships across the aisle,” the AFDI’s ads sought to tie a tenet of the Islamic faith to militant violence.
     Worrying that commuters might take it literally, transit officials rejected the ads as a public-safety risk.
     U.S. District Judge John Koeltl considered it viewpoint discrimination, however, and issued an injunction in April that would force the MTA to run the campaign.
     Transit officials responded by revising their advertising policies to prohibit commentary across the board “regarding disputed economic, political, moral, religious or social issues or related matters.”
     Koeltl found Friday that this change mooted his earlier ruling.
     “Some may regret the MTA’s prohibition of political advertisements and the resulting loss of a public forum for heated political debate,” he wrote. “But no law requires public transit agencies to accept political advertisements as a matter of course, and it is not for this court to impose its own views on what type of forum the MTA should create. Just as the MTA created a designated public forum on its property by ‘invit[ing] … political speech’ and the ensuing ‘clashes of opinion and controversy,’ …, the MTA may rescind that invitation in order to reduce the political controversy amidst the MTA’s day-to-day operation of its public transit system.”
     The judge invited AFDI to “raise the question of whether the MTA’s actions were unconstitutional in an amended complaint.”
     AFDI attorney David Yerushalmi did just that Monday morning, saying his group had “no intention to allow any grass to grow under this ruling.”
     New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio previously denounced AFDI’s advertisements as “hateful,” and City Hall spokeswoman Monica Klein echoed this point.

“The mayor has said these anti-Islamic ads are outrageous, inflammatory and wrong, and have no place in New York City, or anywhere,” Klein said in an email. “These hateful messages serve only to divide and stigmatize when we should be coming together as one city.”
     The AFDI has filed lawsuits from coast to coast fighting to run ads casting the Mideast conflict as a war between the Israeli “civilized man” and the Palestinian “savage,” and another campaign declaring “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Quran.”
     A federal court deemed group’s slogan “Stop Islamisation of America” too offensive for trademark protection last year.
     It was the AFDI that sponsored the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest” where gunmen opened fire in Dallas, Texas, earlier this year.
     Back in 2010, the AFDI had also participated in the opposition of plans for an Islamic community center two blocks away from the World Trade Center in Manhattan, inaccurately nicknamed at the time as the “Ground Zero mosque.”

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