An anti-Muslim group cannot post ads on buses in Washington state showing photos of wanted terrorists and wrongly claiming the FBI offers a $25 million reward for one of their captures, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a claim by the American Freedom Defense Initiative that King County violated its First Amendment right to free speech by refusing to post the advertisements on buses.
The group – whose leader, Pamela Geller, organized the Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas that exploded in violence in May – has similar bus ads in other cities and has gone to court with mixed results after some transportation officials rejected them.
David Yerushalmi, the group’s lawyer, said the group will appeal Wednesday’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative sought to display an ad called “Faces of Global Terrorism,” which included 16 photographs of militants with their names listed and the statement “AFDI Wants You to Stop a Terrorist.” It said the FBI offers a $25 million reward to capture one of the people shown.
King County Metro Transit rejected the banner, saying it failed to meet advertising policy guidelines that prohibit ads that are “false or misleading, demeaning or disparaging or harmful or disruptive to the transit system.”
The appeals court agreed that the claim about the reward was false.
“The FBI is not offering rewards at all, and the State Department offers a reward of at most $5 million, not $25 million, for the capture of one of the pictured terrorists,” the court said.