Group Will Appeal Court Decision To Ban ‘Pro-Israel’ Ads On the MBTA

The feud over First Amendment rights continues.

The American Freedom Law Center, a nonprofit Judeo-Christian law firm, isn’t backing down after a federal judge ruled in December that the MBTA was within its rights to ban a series of “pro-Israel” advertisements that their clients wanted to display at several key transit stations around Boston.

On Thursday, lawyers from the AFLC, who are representing Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, announced they were taking the judge’s decision—denying a preliminary injunction to force the MBTA to put up the ads—to the U.S. Court of Appeals, to try and have it overturned.

AFLC’s motion for a preliminary injunction was part of a federal civil rights lawsuit they recently filed in U.S. District, claiming the MBTA violated their client’s First Amendment rights after refusing to post the messages.

The T claimed that the posters violated their advertising guidelines, and were “disparaging” and “demeaning” because of their stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The signs read:

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

The posters were in response to pro-Palestinian ads that the T allowed to go up in October.

By denying the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s own message, the group felt as though the T was taking sides in the debate regarding Israel and Palestine’s ongoing problems.

On December 20, in the case of the preliminary injunction, a federal judge ruled in favor of the MBTA’s restrictions on speech in a non-public forum, citing a prior court decision issued by the First Circuit that challenged the transit agency’s advertising guidelines. The MBTA also won that case.

“The MBTA, in deciding to open its advertising program to speech on controversial topics, has taken on the difficult task of determining whether speech on that topic crosses the line from being offensive of hurtful, to being demeaning or disparaging such that it can be excluded from the forum,” the judge wrote in the latest court decision.

Ultimately, the court sided with the T and didn’t grant the injunction, but that didn’t sit well with the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s legal team. “We are appealing the lower court’s ruling,” said AFLC Cofounder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi.

No court date has been set for the hearing on the appeal, but lawyers representing the American Freedom Defense Initiative are determined to keep fighting, no matter what the odds.

“Needless to say, this important First Amendment battle continues,” said Yerushalmi.