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Portland bus ads spark religious free speech battle

November 14, 2012

Portland TriMet ads spark controversy
By Oregon Faith News Note:

Ads on their vehicles are sparking controversy, but TriMet can’t do anything about it. Many people find the ads offensive, but a 2008 ruling by the Multnomah County Circuit Court is forcing TriMet to accept all ads as a matter of free speech. TriMet has challenged that ruling and is waiting for the Oregon Supreme Court to review the case.

In September, pro-Palestinian ads appeared, stating, “47 million Palestinians are classified by the U.N. as refugees,” an ad paid for by Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights.

Now in October, pro-Israel ads will appear, stating, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad,” paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

Drew Blevins, TriMet director of Marketing and Customer Information, told KPTV, “We want to let our riders and the public know that we’re disappointed our vehicles have become a medium for divisive discussion, but at this time, we have no other option except to allow the ad on our vehicles.”

“We support free speech, but we hope the Oregon Supreme Court will once again allow us to limit ads to only commercial goods and services.”

For more details, see here

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michelle bombet minch November 14, 2012

Oregon Area Jewish Committee’s letter – from President John L. Moss and Executive Director Emily Gottfried – and a letter by OAJC Board member Steve Bilow were recently in print edition of The Oregonian. Our statement on the issue was also quoted in another Oregonian article by Joseph Rose.

Questionable ad

We regret that transit riders in our community are being exposed to incendiary ads regarding the situation in the Middle East. We trust that those riders will see the ads for what they are — examples of extreme ideas that are meant to create hate and confusion. None of the groups implied in the ads — be they Muslims, Israelis and/or Palestinians — are “savages.” Name-calling, regardless of the source, does nothing to solve the challenges these populations face.

We should be seeking safety, dignity and humanity for each group, instead of humiliation or destruction. We would much rather that TriMet riders — and everyone else — could see thoughtful messages conveyed with a vision of peace for all the peoples in the region. The power of building understanding is real and necessary.

Let’s post that inside the TriMet vehicles.

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