Supreme Court rejects anti-Muslim group's challenge to DC Metro ads ban

The Supreme Court has declined to take up the case of an anti-Muslim group that sought to run ads depicting the Prophet Muhammad on public transit in Washington, D.C.

The justices, in an unsigned order issued Monday, rejected the request from the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) to hear their case over the ads, which they asked to be displayed on the D.C. Metro system. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the AFDI an anti-Muslim hate group.


The ad submitted by the group featured the phrase “Support Free Speech” with an image of Muhammad, the winning picture of an art contest sponsored by the group.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) quickly issued a ban on “issue-oriented” ads in 2015 after receiving the submissions, and later rejected the ads.

The AFDI, led by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, argued that WMATA’s ad space was a public forum and was protected under the First Amendment right to free speech and that rejecting their ads was also unconstitutional.

WMATA is facing another legal challenge over the issue-oriented ads ban from the Archdiocese of Washington, which sought to run religious-themed ads on the D.C. Metro.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled last year in favor of WMATA’s ad policy, finding that the Metro system was a nonpublic forum.

The Supreme Court is now weighing whether it should take up that case.