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SEPTA must run controversial ad, judge rules

American Freedom Defense Initiative co-founder Pamela Geller with one of the ads on apamelageller.org

A federal court ruled that SEPTA is required on First Amendment grounds to run a controversial ad that features anti-Islamic statements.

“While we respect the court’s decision, we are disappointed. We are currently evaluating our options, including whether or not to file an appeal with the U. S. Court of Appeals," said SEPTA director of media relations Jerri Williams Thursday, after a Philadelphia federal court issued its decision Wednesday.

"Brilliant news, freedom lovers. We won in Philadelphia," the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) wrote on its Facebook page after the decision.

Lawyers for SEPTA argued that the advertisement was "patently false" and violated "minimal civility standards," according to court papers.

The AFDI was founded in 2010 and is widely described as Islamophobic.

The ad AFDI proposed to run on SEPTA buses features a pictures of Adolf Hitler and states that Muslims hate Jewish people.

The Philadelphia office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called the ad "dishonest."

“The court did what it had to do under the Constitution. Now it is on all of us, Philadelphians of all faiths, to find a way to respond to these ads in a way that promotes truth and dialogue over ignorance and division," said CAIR-Philadelphia executive director Jacob Bender.

“SEPTA’s refusal to air the ads was no doubt motivated by their disgust with the ads — a disgust we share," said Ryan Tack-Hooper, a CAIR-Philadelphia lawyer. "The First Amendment protects everyone, the hateful and the loving alike."

 

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