For Immediate Release
Contact: Anthony Rothert, Legal Director
ACLU Challenges Removal of Placards from Metrolink
ST. LOUIS, January 27, 2006 -- Bi-State Development Agency violated the Constitution when it removed advertising placards purchased by the National Alliance according to a lawsuit filed the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri this week with the U.S. District Court in St. Louis.
National Alliance, a national organization that says its goal is to preserve the white race, placed innocuous advertisements on Metrolink trains in January 2005. Metro, the agency that runs Metrolink for Bi-State, agreed to post signs that read: ?
“The Future belongs to us! National Alliance.” The sign includes their website and phone number.
According to the suit, Metro removed the advertisements after an anonymous complaint about the viewpoint of the National Alliance. Metro refused to place any further placards from the National Alliance on the grounds that the advertising was “too controversial.”
“Metro violates both the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution by refusing the National Alliance advertisement placards on the grounds of its political philosophy, message and identity,” according to the complaint filed by ACLU cooperating attorney Robert Herman.
“Metro’s decision that the National Alliance’s ads are too controversial is completely arbitrary,” said Brenda Jones, executive director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “The Supreme Court has made clear that the public expression of ideas cannot be prohibited simply because the ideas or the speakers of the ideas are offensive
“The First Amendment exists precisely to protect the most offensive and controversial speech from government suppression. The best way to counter obnoxious speech is with more speech. Persuasion, not coercion, is the solution,” said Rothert. “Courts do not allow government agencies like Metro to ban the expression of ideas just because some riders will find it offensive or disagreeable.”
The lawsuit seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions enjoining Bi-State from continuing to refuse to accept and post National Alliance’s advertising. It also seeks declaratory judgment that the agency’s actions violate the Constitution.