Every few months, some interest group — a union, a political party, a religious organization — buys some ad space from the MTA on its buses or subways, and New Yorkers are converted into people with no tolerance for opposing viewpoints. Today’s controversial ad comes to us from Metro New York, and it concerns a Muslims for peace advertisement.
According to Metro’s Carly Baldwin, the warring ads concerning Islam — one ran recently calling for support from former Muslims — has led one MTA Board member to question religious ads. “I don’t think we should be having any religious ads on our facilities,” Andrew Albert said. “I understand if you run one, you must run them all. The question is: Should we run any of them? Somebody is going to get offended.”
Somebody will get offended no matter what advertisement is up. In fact, those who built the subways were offended by the mere presence of ads. Here, the MTA has a First Amendment obligation to accept the ads. As long as any religious group is allowed to advertise, including atheist groups, all religious groups must be allowed to advertise. Of course, the authority could bar religious advertisements altogether, but in a time of crushing debt, cutting off a revenue stream seems to be a bad idea whether someone’s feelings get hurt in the process or not.