A group is suing Metro for deferring a controversial anti-jihad ad due to "world events and a concern for the security of their passengers," saying the transit agency's postponement amounted to censorship and a violation of its free speech.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative filed a suit and temporary restraining order in federal court against Metro on Thursday afternoon about the proposed advertisement, whose text reads: "In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." The group is seeking to have the courts force Metro to run the ad next week.
The group signed a contract for $5,600 with Metro's advertising vendor, CBS Outdoor, on Sept. 6 to run the ads from Sept. 24 until Oct. 21, the suit says. But on Tuesday, the group said in its complaint that the vendor's ad representative notified the group that the ad was postponed indefinitely.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel declined to comment on pending litigation other than to confirm that the group was told this week the ad was 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," he said.
The group argues, though, that its ads are "very timely in light of these current events in which Muslims are engaging in violent jihad in response to America's policy toward the Middle East and to allegedly protest speech deemed critical of Islam."
Metro isn't the only transit agency to deal with the controversy as deadly protests continue. New York's subway system lost a court decision on the same campaign in July and said this week it plans to run the ads starting Monday.
The ads also ran in the San Francisco Municipal Railway system in August, according to reports, but with an accompanying ad from the system saying it did not support the message. Muni also planned to donate the $3,400 ad revenue to the city's Human Rights Commission, according to news reports.
Metro has previously lost other court battles over ads and had to run posters in 1984 suggesting that President Reagan led a "jelly bean republic."
In March, the agency faced heat over an ad for a film at the Clarendon station that included the tagline: "Go to hell Barack." Congressional representatives and the agency's own employees asked Metro to take down the ad, but the agency said it could not because past court rulings said its advertising program is protected under the First Amendment's right to free speech.
The transit agency's ads cannot be factually misleading or false, nor can they violate laws or incite violence, the agency has said. Profanity is out, as are ads for drugs and alcohol. Everything else must be accepted, the agency has said.
This week's complaint said the group's ad meets Metro's guidelines and specifically cited past ads in the Metro system that it called pro-Palestine and anti-Israel and that displayed the message "End U.S. Military aid to Israel."