Attorney General Paxton has joined an Alabama-led multistate amicus brief in the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, fighting to defend the First Amendment rights of a Jewish synagogue facing unconstitutional discrimination.
The case revolves around the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), a publicly-funded transit system, that refused to allow Young Israel of Tampa to advertise its “Chanukah on Ice” program pursuant to a policy banning religious advertising. After the district court enjoined its policy, HART appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.
As the courts have ruled on several occasions, public entities violate the First Amendment when they engage in viewpoint discrimination, regulating speech based upon disagreement with the point of view being expressed. That is precisely what HART did here.
HART further departed from the First Amendment by lumping in all religious advertising with more traditional categories of prohibited advertising, such as ads containing graphic violence or nudity. It flies in the face of the First Amendment, and the American tradition of respecting religious freedom, for HART to draw a moral equivalency drawn between a synagogue hosting a community event commemorating a religious holiday and pornographic or violent advertising
As the brief states: “[T]he policy is at odds with the history and tradition of the First Amendment, sends the perverse message that religious discourse is like the other subjects HART bans (alcohol, pornography, discriminatory messages, and the like), conflicts with modern First Amendment jurisprudence forbidding viewpoint discrimination, and flunks even HART’s preferred test for content-neutral speech restrictions.”
To read the full brief, click here.