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Court: Phoenix Can Reject Bus Ads

August 29, 1998

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A federal appeals court on Friday upheld Phoenix’s refusal to allow the ACLU and an anti-abortion group advertising space on the outside of city buses.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the policy of turning down noncommercial ads was reasonable, based on the city’s interest of making money and remaining neutral on political and religious issues.

The ruling allows Phoenix to extend its policy to municipal facilities such as sports arenas, and will encourage other cities to adopt similar policies, said city lawyer Donald Loeb. Other cities have various transit ad restrictions, but Phoenix is the first to draw the line between commercial and noncommercial ads, he said.

After Phoenix adopted the policy in November 1996, the Children of the Rosary wanted to run an ad with a biblical passage and the message ``Choose Life.″ After hearing of the dispute, the American Civil Liberties Union proposed an ad saying it supports free speech.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which represented Children of the Rosary, promised to appeal. Spokesman Benjamin Bull said the policy promotes viewpoint discrimination by preventing only issue-oriented groups from advertising on buses.

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