Free speech is a protected amendment by the Constitution of the United States, but in a day of violence and terrorism, should it allow for posters that represent killing Jews for the sake of worship to be openly displayed in public? One judge voted in favor of free speech when he declared that posters stating “Killing Jews is Worship,” were to be allowed in NYC subway stations.
When an ad appeared in the New York City subway station, picturing a young man in a headscarf with the saying, “Killing Jews Is Worship that draws us close to Allah, That’s His Jihad, What’s yours,” citizens were outraged. Though ads in NYC are not always G-rated, many claimed that this poster could encourage violence against Jews or other New York citizens. They claimed free speech is a right, but not at the risk of citizen’s lives. If yelling fire is not appropriate in public, encouraging the killing of Jews in public should not be appropriate either.
But in fact, a federal U.S. judge ruled that the posters were allowed to be hung, in the debate over free speech and public safety. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl ruled that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of New York could not stop the poster ads from running. The poster’s are not only a sign of free speech, but representation of religious freedom.
But it was the MTA who tried to stop the ad, in the first place. With all of the violence that has gone on around and in the subways of New York, the MTA knows first hand how bad it can be. As many citizens are scared to take public transportation in New York, in the first place, this new take on free speech could make religious believers scared to take subway trains or buses, for fear of their lives. Though free speech was protected, as the judge said that the transportation authority underestimated the tolerant quality of New Yorkers, the MTA was backed by many citizens.
Judge Koeltl also said that the MTA overestimated the potential impact of the posters. Whether used as a sign of free speech or used as a sign of religious freedom, these posters may not make any influence on passengers of the subway or buses. If those who worship Allah already believe in what the poster represents, perhaps the poster will not encourage anyone to specifically cause harm on the subways. As an example of this, Christian followers use billboard’s to represent their faith through free speech – but they also do not encourage violence.
Jewish believers have certainly taken offense to the posters, and even believers of different faiths are upset at the suggestions of the posters, but as the judge ruled in the interest of free speech due to the most interesting turn about the case, it was presented that an Islamist group is not the party who ran the ad. This free speech ad, in which killing Jews is the theme, was actually run by a pro-Israel organization, though according to the Southern Poverty Law Center the organization is classified as an anti-Muslim hate group.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) purchased the ads and then sued the MTA because they would not let them run. The free speech activists work on the offense to keep the amendment from being violated by state, federal, and local authorities. The AFDI has filed nine previous lawsuits against organizations that refuse to run any ads that they put out, in the interest of free speech.
Though the first amendment has always been there to protect free speech, is it still appropriate if it poses a danger to U.S. citizens? Though changing the constitution is something that U.S. citizens do not want, perhaps it is time to take some legislative action against the things that people are allowed to say or print. Though the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is in charge of most media free speech regulations, this was an instance where dangers and violent communication was, in fact, allowed. Though religious freedom is available to anyone, indirectly threatening the lives of community members should not be allowed. However, apparently Judge Koeltl believed it would not bring harm to anyone, as he ruled to allow the poster to run. So, for now the posters will continue to run in the ad spaces of subway cars and buses in New York City.
Opinion by Crystal Boulware