On 9/11, as radical Islamic terrorists were attacking the U.S. consulate in Libya and their sympathizers were raising Al Qaeda banners above the U.S. embassy in Cairo–all, we were later told by the Obama administration, due to outrage at a film–a debate was held at the city council meeting of Santa Monica, CA. Troubled residents wanted to know why the city had banned non-profit groups from running ads on the sides of city buses.
Why couldn’t a good cause, such as the AIDS Walk, be promoted? one man asked. Is it fair that only for-profit companies can make use of such a visible public asset?
The city’s attorney and several council members explained patiently, and not too subtly, that if the city began allowing liberal groups to advertise on buses, it would have to allow all groups–including, for example, Christian family organizations–to run ads on buses also.
The danger, one council member said, was that residents might find such views deeply offensive. To avoid hurt feelings, and to avoid the legal problems of discriminating based on the content of speech, the city had set a policy of prohibiting non-profit ads entirely.