First Amendment: Non-Public forums

July 8, 2016

Although a municipality or other local government may place reasonable time, place, and manner regulations on speech occurring on public property, it must be careful not to tread on the First Amendment. A recent case from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals illustrates how far municipal governments may go. Citilink is a public entity providing bus transportation services in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Citilink allows advertisements on its buses but limits advertising that contains, among other things, “express or advocate opinions or positions upon political, religious, or moral issues.” Citilink rejected an ad submitted by Women’s Health Link, a pro-life organization which provided women’s health services. The ad stated: “You are not alone. Free resource for women seeking health care.” The ad provided a website link and telephone number, along with Health Link’s logo. Nothing about the ad indicated that Health Link was a pro-life organization. In striking down Citilink’s action, the Appellate Court ruled that since the ad itself did not state any political, religious, or moral aim or agenda, it was permitted under Citilink’s own policy and that “[o]nce a government entity has created a facility (the ad spaces in and on its buses, in this case) for communicative activity, it must respect the lawful boundaries it has itself set.”

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