NY buses to carry controversial 'Killing Jews' message

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Pamela Gellar, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, shows off the group's controversial advertisement after a judge rules the signs' message is protected under the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. | AFDI via Pamelagellar.com

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) -- A controversial advertising campaign that states "Killing Jews is worship" will soon be displayed city wide on as many as 100 New York buses and subways cars.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan ordered the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to display the offensive signs under protection of the first amendment despite arguments that the messages could incite violence against Jews.

The ad, which was purchased by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, shows a man cloaked in a scarf covering his face and head with a statement from Hamas MTV "Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah. That's his Jihad. What's Yours?"

Also included in the text is a disclaimer that MTA does not endorse the sign's messaging.

The AFDI, considered an anti-Muslim group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, reportedly intended to parody a previous Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) campaign designed to promote peaceful Islam.

MTA however argued in court that the intended message was unclear since CAIR's initial ads did not appear in New York. Additionally the agency claimed New York's status as a "prime terror target" posed an increased threat of violence resulting from the ads which previously ran without incident in San Francisco and Chicago.

In his ruling Koeltl said MTA officials "underestimate the tolerant quality of New Yorkers and overestimate the potential impact of these fleeting advertisements."

"Moreover," Koeltl noted, "there is no evidence that seeing one of these advertisements on the back of a bus would be sufficient to trigger a violent reaction. Therefore, these ads — offensive as they may be — are still entitled to First Amendment protection."

AFDI President Pamela Gellar called the Judge Koeltl's decision a "triumph for liberty and free speech" on Twitter. After the win in court Gellar said she planned to increase the number of ads initially purchased and intended to seek reimbursement for legal costs from the MTA.

The group has a history of filing lawsuits across the U.S. against cities and contractors who refuse to display their often controversial advertisements, according to the Washington Post.

A spokesman for the MTA, Adam Lisberg, called the ruling a disappointment and claimed the company would now review their options. MTA has 30 days to appeal Koeltl's ruling.