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ACLU challenges Chapel Hill's removal of bus ad

Posted October 1, 2012
Updated October 2, 2012

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— A civil rights group is calling on Chapel Hill officials to keep a political advertisement on town buses.

The ad, which said the U.S. should end military aid to Israel, was sponsored by the Church of Reconciliation, a USA Presbyterian church in Chapel Hill. 

Chapel Hill transit officials said the ad was removed briefly in August after about 10 days because it didn't include the required contact information for the church. Officials noted they had received five complaints about the ad, but that wasn't the reason it was pulled.

Now, however, town leaders are considering removing the ad because of its content.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation sent a letter to town officials Friday, urging them to “safeguard cherished First Amendment rights and its reputation as a community welcoming of dialogue” by keeping the ad on town buses.

“The freedom of citizens to express political beliefs without being censored by their government is one of the most basic and cherished rights protected by our Constitution,” Chris Brook, state ACLU legal director, said in a statement. “We urge Chapel Hill officials to stand up for the free speech rights of their citizens by keeping the town’s bus ads open as a forum for public dialogue free of government censorship.”

The ACLU said it received numerous complaints about the ad's removal.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • kermit60 Oct 2, 2012

    I spent a year in Israel on both sides of the fence. I was able to see both sides of the conflict first hand. Most people don't have any idea what really is going on over there and base there comments and decisions on media propaganda from both sides. It is far more complicated and involves many countries in the area not just the Isralies and Palistineans. As inacurate as the signs message is taking it down would be wrong.

  • mpheels Oct 2, 2012

    Re. separation of church and state, Chapel Hill Transit sells ad space to lots of religious organizations. There are plenty of ads for religious services on the buses. As long as they don't give preference to one religious group over another, there is not problem. It isn't much different than letting religious groups rent public space for services or events.

  • mpheels Oct 2, 2012

    Thank you Lightfoot3! Did everyone else miss the story in the past few weeks where the ACLU defended the KKK when their application to adopt a highway was denied? The ACLU will fight for any person whose Constitutional rights have been infringed.

  • Lightfoot3 Oct 2, 2012

    "What about the seperation of church and state." - Sherlock

    You have a point. A government entity is selling ad space to a religious organization. However, the actual message doesn't appear to be religious.

  • Lightfoot3 Oct 2, 2012

    "The ACLU defends the rights of all people." - tennisluvr


    "ACLU is anti Christian no doubt" - thinkin out loud

    Incorrect. They are PRO-Constitution, and have taken on many cases on the side of Christianity.

    "If it slammed a Conservative idea then the ACLU would be missing in action." - whatelseisnew

    They support both Conservative and Liberal ideas as long as they are constitutional. Are Conservative ideas usually unconstitutional? :)

  • Sherlock Oct 2, 2012

    What about the seperation of church and state. the ACLU wants the govt. to support a church organization? Also the ACLU does not stand up for individuals rights only the ones they want to support.

  • piene2 Oct 1, 2012

    "Id this was a religious ad or one supporting Military aid to Israel the ACLU would not get involved. ACLU is anti Christian no doubt
    thinkin out loud"

    Score one for the ACLU, sadly though it is not true.

  • tennisluvr Oct 1, 2012

    The ACLU defends the rights of all people. This is not liberal or conservative...it is correct. If you understood that they stand up for the constitutional rights of all people you might change your tune.

  • thinkin out loud Oct 1, 2012

    Id this was a religious ad or one supporting Military aid to Israel the ACLU would not get involved. ACLU is anti Christian no doubt

  • nighthawkcp Oct 1, 2012

    It has not been removed. I see it multiple times a day when I ride buses to and from work/downtown. Noticed it on a bus to the Carrboro Music Festival and again on a bus this morning. So I'm not sure if the ACLU got the memo, or maybe it was just the bus drivers who were supposed to remove the signs.