The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority today, April 29, passed a resolution banning all political advertising on its subways and buses.
The reason for this counter-intuitive decision (why shut off an easy and attractive revenue stream?) is being attributed to a court decision which allowed an organization committed to fighting Islamic terrorism to promote its message in a series of advertisements which contain the phrase “Hamas Killing Jews” on New York City buses.
The organization behind those ads, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, brought a lawsuit against the MTA for trying to block one of its ads which contained the quote: “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.” After the quote, which is attributed to Hamas TV, are the words, “That’s his Jihad. What’s yours?”
The MTA claimed this ad would incite violence. The court disagreed, stating that simply the fear of spontaneous attacks, without any evidence, is insufficient to override the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Claiming that the action it was taking would obviate the need to litigate what kind of ads are acceptable and which ones would legitimately be rejected, the MTA board voted Wednesday, April 29, that it will no longer accept “ads for political parties, ballot referendums and any ad that is ‘political in nature.” Commercial advertising, public-service announcements, and government-funded ads will still be allowed to run.
Pamela Geller, the president of the AFDI, said on her website that the MTA board’s decision constitutes a ban on speech in the public square. This is “Sharia in America,” she wrote.
The MTA said that the kind of advertising that will be banned accounts for less than $1 million of the MTA’s annual $138 million advertising revenue.
New York City’s is not the first transit agency to ban political ads on their public transportation systems. Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia already have such bans in place.