In fighting for free speech in Boston, we are showing up the inconsistency and self-contradictions of those who would limit our freedom of speech and the truth about jihadist savagery.
It all started when, as we have done in many other cities over the last few years, my organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, or AFDI, recently tried to place pro-Israel ads in Boston, countering anti-Israel ads that ran there. Our ad was the now-famous one that reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.” We submitted it in response to a vicious anti-Israel ad that was pulled after complaints but then re-posted despite the complaints.
Our ad was rejected as “demeaning,” and we sued – and we did not succeed in our motion for a preliminary injunction. U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton ruled against us. But in reading his extensively thought-out, well-written opinion, it appears that he did so reluctantly. We knew going in that overcoming the Ridley decision, which upheld the MBTA’s right to reject ads it considered “demeaning” to some group, would be an enormous hurdle. The Ridley case is the Dred Scott of free-speech decisions. During our hearing, Judge Gorton specifically stated that, being a district judge, he did not have the authority to rule on or alter the decision in that case.
Here is the most interesting part of his opinion:
Nevertheless, the Court agrees with the plaintiffs that the most reasonable interpretation of their advertisement is that they oppose acts of Islamic terrorism directed at Israel. Thus, if the question before this Court were whether the MBTA adopted the best interpretation of an ambiguous advertisement, it would side with the plaintiffs. But restrictions on speech in a non-public forum need only be reasonable and need not be the most reasonable. See Ridley, 390 F.3d at 90.
He did not want to hold against us, even going so far as to say that he personally viewed jihad as violent war, but in his view, Ridley as his binding precedent tied his hands.
We have filed an appeal and will fight on even to the Supreme Court if necessary. But we also decided to test the MBTA’s “demeaning” standard. We submitted a new ad, identical in appearance to the first, and reading, “In any war between the civilized man and those who commit savage acts, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat violent jihad.”
The MBTA approved this version immediately. Its acceptance of this ad and not the first ad shows the absurdity of its position and exposes how it has subjected the First Amendment to its capricious whims. The fact that “savage” is a noun in one ad and an adjective in the other, and one ad is approved and the other isn’t, is ridiculous and serves only to make our case stronger. Now advertisers have to hire a legal staff to write their ad copy? It’s absurd.
The fact is that our new ad forced them into a corner and exposed the silliness of their position. Can we expect the “peaceful” jihadis who were so offended by the prior ad to lovingly accept this one? The revised ad points to the absurdity of the government censoring one but being forced to approve the other. They, and the law as understood by Ridley and Judge Gorton, are enforcing subjective standards that inevitably lead them to allow the viewpoints they approve of and deny those with which they disagree.
So we decided to test them yet again, and submitted a third ad, again looking like the first two, and reading: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat violent jihad.” We’re going to see exactly where the MBTA decides to say we can go this far and no farther, and then expose their subjectivity and politically motivated rulings.
The enemies of freedom invoke the freedom of speech to kill freedom of speech. Free speech is for them, and them alone. It speaks to the heart of matter and the reason why we fight. Those who enforce free-speech restrictions expose who and what they really are.
These enemies of freedom mean to destroy the founding principles of this nation.
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