By Todd Quinones, Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You will soon be seeing controversial ads on the sides of some SEPTA buses. SEPTA has decided not to appeal a court ruling, but it has decided to take other decisive action.
SEPTA is smack-dab in the middle of a freedom of speech issue religious leaders would rather not see.
"We condemn inflammatory messages that serve to divide, to stigmatize and to incite prejudice," said Rabbi David Ackerman, Rabbinical Assembly Mid-Atlantic Region.
The New Hampshire-based anti-Islamic group, American Freedom Defense Fund, paid about $30,000 for the advertisements that will be featured on 84 Septa vehicles for four weeks starting as early as next week.
"Septa does not -- and I repeat -- does not endorse or support the views expressed in these ads," says Pat Deon, Septa Board Chair. Reading a prepared statement, he apologized to riders who may be offended by the ads that state in part, "Islamic Jew Hate-- It's In the Quran."
"SEPTA sincerely regrets any discomfort that this may cause our rider-ship," read Deon.
Thursday, the transit authority said it would not appeal the federal court ruling that AFDI has a First Amendment right to run the bus ads. SEPTA general counsel says there will be no appeal citing legal costs and the authority's new revised advertising policy.
"The new policy is a complete prohibition against any kind of political or public issue ads," said SEPTA general counsel Gino Benedetti.
Members of the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia commended SEPTA for its efforts to try to prevent the ads.
"For the Jewish community it is not very nice to see Adolf Hitler on the buses or to see propaganda that is reminiscent of what Hitler and images Goebbels used to denigrate and dehumanize a religion," said Muhammad Abdur-Razzaq Miller, Mosque of the Shaikh M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen.
The ads will be placed in general circulation and will appear on vehicles throughout the city.
The AFDI now has more than a half a dozen lawsuits filed against transit authorities across the country.
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