This was released this morning by the Good folks at the ACLU on North Carolina:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OCTOBER 1, 2012
ACLU-NC to Chapel Hill: Censoring Bus Ads Violates First Amendment
In Letter, Constitutional Law Group Warns Chapel Hill Town Officials that Removing a Bus Ad Because Some Disagree with Its Political Message Would Constitute Content & Viewpoint Discrimination
RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) sent a letter to officials from the Town of Chapel Hill on Friday, urging them to “safeguard cherished First Amendment rights and its reputation as a community welcoming of dialogue” by allowing a recent controversial advertisement to remain on city buses.
The letter was sent after the ACLU-NCLF received numerous complaints from Chapel Hill residents who were concerned by a proposal from some town officials to remove a public bus advertisement paid for by the Church of Reconciliation and featuring a Palestinian and an Israeli man holding their grandchildren with text reading, “Join with us. Build peace with justice and equality. End U.S. military aid to Israel.”
In its letter, the ACLU-NCLF explains that removing the ad solely because of disagreement with its content, as some officials have proposed, would constitute subject matter and viewpoint discrimination in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“The freedom of citizens to express political beliefs without being censored by their government is one of the most basic and cherished rights protected by our Constitution,” said ACLU-NCLF Legal Director Chris Brook, who authored the letter. “In fact, speech that may be unpopular, controversial, or incite strong emotions is exactly what the First Amendment was designed to protect. We urge Chapel Hill officials to stand up for the free speech rights of their citizens by keeping the town’s bus ads open as a forum for public dialogue free of government censorship.”
Read the entire letter at acluofnc.org.
The ACLU of North Carolina is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving and expanding the guarantees of individual liberty found in the United States and North Carolina Constitutions and related federal and state civil rights laws. With more than 12,000 members and supporters throughout the state and an office located in Raleigh, the organization achieves its mission through advocacy, public education, community outreach, and when necessary, litigation.
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