A pro-life group in Lafayette, Indiana, can now place its ads on the side of the government-run CityBus transportation company’s buses, at the conclusion of a lawsuit that comes after CityBus denied the group’s request.
In the fall of 2017, Tippecanoe County Right to Life submitted an advertisement intended for display on the sides of CityBus. The two by eight ad features two ultrasound photos and a newborn photo side by side. The words “Me,” and then “Me, again” appear over the ultrasound photos, and “Still me” over the newborn photo. However, the advertisement was denied by the company, as the general manager deemed that it expressed a political viewpoint, a violation of the company’s advertising policy.
According to the lawsuit, the manager compared the group to the Ku Klux Klan when it told the pro-life group that accepting their ad would mean “it might have to accept ads from other organizations – like ones that wear hoods and burn crosses.”
In the past, CityBus has run ads for mayoral and other political candidates, voter drives, and ballot issues, as well as health and advocacy groups.
According to the First Amendment lawsuit, Tippecanoe County Right to Life claims that there was “government discrimination against protected speech due to the viewpoint expressed,” because the pro-life organization “believes that it is critical to educate the public about the humanity of unborn children and the harms of abortion,” and that “one reason abortion is permitted in America is that many people do not understand the scientific truth about the humanity of unborn children.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the pro-life organization, said in a statement Thursday, “It’s a scientific fact that unborn babies are just as human as the newborn babies we cherish, and Tippecanoe County Right to Life’s ad shares that truth in a compelling way. We are thankful that CityBus is now allowing this educational message to reach people as they study, shop, and commute. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all people, regardless of their beliefs or their viewpoint.”
In accordance with terms of the lawsuit, CityBus has removed the provisions in its advertising policy that it had used to reject the ad. It also agreed to pay attorneys fees and damages.
Alliance Defending Freedom is a national nonprofit that addresses issues related to religious liberty, marriage and family, and pro-life issues, and in June of 2016 won a similar case in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The organization initially filed suit against CityBus in July 2018. In November, a federal judge ruled that the case could proceed.
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