Public Transportation Authority Bans Religious Speech, Attorney General Jeff Landry Fights Back

Published 7:02 am Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Louisiana joins legal brief opposing policy denying religious group’s First Amendment right to advertise

BATON ROUGE, LA – Louisiana Attorney General joined 20 of his colleagues in filing a legal brief opposing the Hillsborough (FL) transit authority’s policy denying the First Amendment rights of a religious group to advertise on public transportation.

“Our Nation is the world’s greatest beacon of freedom because our founders, and patriots after them, enshrined religious liberty as a guiding principle. The right to religious freedom is under attack not only by woke mobs and their allies in the legacy media, but also by overreaching government,” said Attorney General Landry. “HART’s policy banning religious speech runs afoul of Supreme Court cases and the Constitution. I hope our legal efforts will prevail and the First Amendment will once again be protected from this unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination and unreasonable content-based restriction.”

In October 2020, an Orthodox Jewish synagogue submitted an ad to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) seeking to advertise its annual celebration of Chanukah. HART rejected the ad because it was religious; then after an appeal to HART’s CEO, HART said it would run the ad only if it censored all references to a central feature of the Jewish celebration of Chanukah: the menorah. In February 2021, the synagogue filed a lawsuit against HART in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

As noted in the amicus brief filed by Attorney General Landry and his colleagues – HART lumps in “religious affiliation advertising” with others forms of advertising it forbids: ads for “tobacco, alcohol, or related products” and ads containing “profane language, obscene materials,” “images of nudity,” or “depiction[s] of graphic violence,” among others.

By treating them alike, the attorneys general argue, HART sends the perverse message that religious speech is too controversial, too taboo, and too dangerous for public discussion – a notion that flies in the face of our nation’s history and tradition celebrating religious discourse and the First Amendment’s dual guarantee of the freedoms of speech and religious exercise.

Attorney General Landry joined Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and the attorneys general from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia in filing the amicus brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Judicial Circuit.

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The case is captioned Young Israel of Tampa v. Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority. A copy of the Attorney General’s legal filing may be found at agjefflandry.com/Article/13069.