A pro-Israel group filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking to force Metro to display advertisements the transit agency apparently worries are too provocative in light of recent Muslim protests related to a controversial video.
The posters were to be displayed in four stations starting Monday and would say: “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage. Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) purchased the advertising space this month from CBS Outdoor, Metro’s advertising firm, the lawsuit states. But a representative of CBS Outdoor on Tuesday e-mailed Pamela Geller, AFDI’s executive director and a leader of the effort to stop a mosque from being built near Ground Zero in New York, saying it would delay posting the advertisements “due to the situations happening around the world at this time.”
The ad agency was referring to Muslim protests around the globe linked to an Internet video that disparages the prophet Muhammad. Violence linked to the demonstrations has killed at least 30 people in seven countries, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
A spokeswoman for Metro said in a statement that “we notified the advertiser that the ad would be deferred. To be clear, we have not rejected the ad, merely asked the advertiser to be sensitive to the timing of the placement out of a concern for public safety, given current world events.”
The American Freedom Law Center, a self-described Judeo-Christian nonprofit law firm, filed the suit on behalf of AFDI in the District’s federal court. The suit and an application for a temporary restraining order seek to force Metro to display the advertisement as scheduled. The law center and AFDI recently won a similar lawsuit against the New York Transit Authority.
“This is an important First Amendment issue,” said Robert Muise, senior counsel for the law center. “The government can’t pick and choose what messages they will allow or not. Even a momentary loss of constitutional freedoms is a irreparable harm.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center considers AFDI a hate group.