A leading civil rights group in the United States is suing Washington, DC’s public transportation company after the organisation rejected advertisements featuring the First Amendment — the portion of the US Constitution that establishes freedom of speech in America.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) deemed its ad featuring the text of the First Amendment in three languages to be “controversial”. Three other advertisements from separate interests were also represented as a part of the lawsuit.
“This case highlights the consequences of the government’s attempt to suppress all controversial speech on public transit property,” Arthur Spitzer, the legal director for the ACLU in Washington, said in a press release. “The First Amendment protects the speech of everyone from discriminatory government censorship, whether you agree with the message or not.
The ACLU’s ad showed the First Amendment written in Arabic, English, and Spanish. The other rejected ads included one from animal rights group PETA advocating for a vegan diet, one promoting the controversial book of far-right activist Milo Yiannopoulos, and another from women’s health care collective Carafem advertising a 10-week abortion pill.
“In 2015, WMATA’s Board of Directors changed its advertising forum to a nonpublic forum and adopted commercial advertising guidelines that prohibit issue-oriented ads, including political, religious and advocacy ads,” Sherri Ly, a spokeswoman for WMATA, told The Independent in a statement. “WMATA intends to vigorously defend its commercial advertising guidelines, which are reasonable and view-point neutral.”
Mr Yiannopoulos’s advertisement was initially approved by WMATA, but was later taken out of the transit system after complaints from riders. The far-right provocateur was forced to self-publish the book in question after a controversy surrounding statements of his that were interpreted as promoting pedophilia. Mr Yiannopoulos — who has roused controversy for other comments seen as sexist or xenophobic before — has repeatedly denied those interpretations of his comments.
“I’m glad that the Aclu has decided to stop aiding the spread of sharia law and their usual wrongheaded social-justice crusades to tackle a real civil rights issue. I’m joined in this lawsuit by fellow plaintiffs including pharmaceutical villains and vitamin-deficient vegans, but I’m no…