CTA Statement on American Freedom Defense Initiative Advertisements

November 15, 2012

After review of First Amendment legal precedent related to free speech, the CTA will allow the advertisements AFDI seeks to purchase for placement on some of its buses.

AFDI over the past year has prevailed in litigation against several other transit agencies including New York and Washington, D.C. on the same advertisements. While those courts agreed that the AFDI ads violate anti-disparagement or anti-demeaning standards similar to CTA’s, that violation in and of itself did not remove AFDI’s First Amendment protection to place the ads. Those transit agencies were considered by the courts to be public forums, and as such, cannot regulate or prohibit ads that are entitled to First Amendment protection.

CTA understands that this ad may be offensive to our customers. While the courts have ruled this ad is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, we object to its divisive message.

We certainly recognize the importance of free speech protected by the First Amendment. We are hopeful that our advertisers and potential advertisers continue to be respectful of the CTA customers who serve as their audience, and acknowledge the cultural diversity that makes Chicago strong.

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