Court Date Set For Arguments Over ‘Demeaning’ Pro-Israel Ads On the MBTA

A judge will hear both sides of the case in U.S. District Court in December.

After filing an injunction in U.S. District Court, in an effort to force the MBTA to place pro-Israel ads at specific stations around the system which were deemed “demeaning” by the transit agency’s advertising partner, a court hearing has been scheduled in front of a judge next month to discuss the matter.

On Tuesday, December 3, at 11 a.m., the Honorable Nathaniel M. Gorton will hear both sides of an argument in the case of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and the MBTA, at the Moakley Courthouse.

Last week, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), representing Geller and Spencer, filed a motion as part of a lawsuit against the MBTA, asking the courts to force the T to put up pro-Israel posters after the transit agency’s advertising partner, Titan, decided they wouldn’t place the ads.

The posters took an anti-Islam stance, and Titan decided they violated the company’s advertising policies, deeming them derogatory and “demeaning” in nature.

The signs read:

In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.

They were meant to go up at 10 of the T’s busiest stations and stops.

The ads were in response to a set of posters boards, plastered at 80 locations, that promoted a anti-Israel message, depicting a shrinking Palestinian landscape.

At first, after receiving complaints about that particular message being “anti-Israel,” Titan pulled the ads. They quickly went back up, however, as a result of a “miscommunication” between the MBTA and its contractor.

The immediate injunction filed by lawyers from the AFLC, representing the AFDI, argued that the MBTA’s censorship of their pro-Israel advertisement, and promotion of the other, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The accompanying lawsuit states that the MBTA leased its advertising space for political and social commentary advertisements covering a broad spectrum of political views and ideas in the past, and “by policy and practice, the MBTA has created a designated public forum for the display of public service, public issue, and political issue advertisements,” according to federal court documents obtained by Boston.

“Apparently the MBTA allows its advertisers to disparage Israel but is quite solicitous of the sensitivities of jihadis,” said Robert J. Muise, AFLC Cofounder and Senior Counsel. “The fact that the MBTA displayed the anti-Israel advertisements yet rejected our clients’ advertisement clearly demonstrates that the MBTA either picked sides in the ongoing Israeli and Palestinian debate or caved-in to political correctness. Under the First Amendment, this type of censorship is prohibited.”

His clients are seeking to recoup attorney fees, costs, and expenses, as well as “nominal damages” for the “past loss of their constitutional rights.”

The court hearing on the immediate injunction in December is open to the public.