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AATA does not have to put anti-Israel ad on its buses


A federal judge says a new advertisement policy adopted by Ann Arbor's bus system is constitutional - unlike its old one.

The new policy bans all political ads.  It was adopted after the bus system rejected an ad for being in "bad taste."

That proposed ad called for a boycott of Israel, and featured an image of a spider crushing a skull.

The federal judge told the AATA in a previous court ruling that the "bad taste" policy could violate free speech rights.

So, AATA went back to the drawing board, dropping the "in bad taste" provision and adding a provision that bans all ads of a political nature.  That will necessarily include the usual ads for people running for judge or some other political office.

Attorney Kate Klaus of the law firm Maddin, Hauser, Wartell, Roth & Heller represents the bus system.

"Tthe AATA wasn't trying to restrict speech," says Klaus.  "But it has a particular mission to get people to ride the bus. So anything that's going to make somebody feel personally attacked or demeaned in any way isn't going to further the goal of getting people to ride the bus."

The ACLU of Michigan represented the would-be advertiser.  ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin says the ruling is disappointing.

He says based on the initial policy, and the harm that came from the initial denial of free speech, the proper remedy would have been to allow the speech, and order the AATA to put the ad on city buses.

He says the ACLU hasn't decided yet if it will appeal the decision.





Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.