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MTA Announces New Disclaimer Policy For Non-Commercial Advertisements

MTA Chairman: 'You Deal With A Free Speech Issue With More Free Speech'
MTA pro-Israel ad

Thanks to a recent ruling by a federal judge, you will soon see an ad like this one posted in some subway station. (file/credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced a new disclaimer policy for controversial issue advertisements, just a week after losing a court battle to block one such advertisement.

The MTA had refused to run ads that compared Muslims to savages but a federal judge ruled against the agency, arguing that it would violate the First Amendment.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reports

The controversial ad that will now be posted in 10 subway stations reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

According to the MTA, the new policy will require non-commercial ads to contain a prominently displayed disclaimer reading, “This is a paid advertisement sponsored by [Sponsor]. The display of this advertisement does not imply MTA’s endorsement of any views expressed.”

The policy change came following a heated public comment period where opponents and supporters of the controversial ads weighed in.

The conservative commentator behind the Jihad ad argued that an anti-Israel ad was allowed in subway stations last year without a legal battle.

“Don’t you see that there’s a systemic, institutionalized anti-Israel bias? This is not against Muslims,” said Pamela Geller. “You can’t say ‘now we’re going to change the rule.’ Don’t change the rule.”

Geller, who leads a group called The American Freedom Defense Initiative, was also behind an anti-Muslim ad campaign posted at some Metro-North station platforms last month.

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said the board voted to continue to allow non-commercial issue ads.

“You deal with a First Amendment issue, you deal with a free speech issue with more free speech,” MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

The MTA chairman said he expects more of these issue ads to continue popping up along mass transit routes.

“There will be more of them. And the unfortunate part of it is, and it, too, is a First Amendment issue, is what they really want is not the ads it’s the number of stories,” Lhota told Diamond.

The Straphangers Campaign applauded the MTA’s new policy, but called for specific details including how large the “conspicuous” disclaimer would have to be to comply with the new rule.

In response to the Jihad ad, a non-profit Christian group has announced it purchased advertising space in the New York City subway system for its “Love Your Muslim Neighbors” campaign.

Those ads are already running in several hotspots for religious tension across the country, according to the group Sojourners.

In a statement explaining the ad campaign, Sojourners president and CEO Rev. Jim Wallis said “when Jesus said, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ he didn’t add stipulations. He didn’t offer any extra addendums or added qualifiers. Christians around the world need to put that into action as often as we can, especially where we see hatred like this.”

The group has already placed the ads in Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

What do you think of the MTA’s new policy? Share your comments below…