In a decision today, Judge McMahon granted a preliminary injunction allowing subway ads about a humorous documentary called “The Muslims Are Coming!” The ads included statements such as: “The Ugly Truth About Muslims: Muslims have great frittata recipes,” and “Muslims invented Justin Timberlake.” One reason the film producer (a company referred to as VQP) chose to advertise in the subway was to respond to certain pro-Israel ads that a group called “ADFI” had also run in the subway system — ads that were subject to their own litigation issues (see our prior post here).
Judge McMahon rejected the MTA’s argument that it neutrally applied its policy against advertising that is “political in nature,” and emphasized that the ads were not “political” merely because the subject matter was Islam:
VQP is a for-profit film production company, not an advocacy group. It has no specific political agenda or policy demands; it is not on a civil rights crusade. VQP saw an opportunity to reintroduce its brand of humor and promote DVD sales of a film about Muslim comedians and their interactions with Americans — and took it. That VQP used public support for the film’s message and public dislike of AFDI’s modus operandi to garner attention and finance its campaign does not transform the essential non-political nature of the advertisements themselves! The text of the messages that would be posted in the subways is not “prominently or predominantly political” — unless we have reached the unhappy moment in this country where the mere mention of one of the three Abrahamic faiths is “prominently or predominantly political” simply because that faith is Islam.