Attorney General Steve Marshall recently led a multi-state brief in the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), defending a First Amendment claim from a Jewish temple in Florida after the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) rejected a proposed advertisement for being religious in nature.

In 2020, a Jewish synagogue, Young Israel of Tampa, attempted to advertise a production of "Chanukah on Ice" with HART, the local state-run bus network. HART, which holds a no-religious-speech advertising policy, rejected the proposed advertisement for "Chanukah on Ice" while at the same time accepting an ad campaign for another production of "Winter Village."

The plaintiffs argued that, since the only distinction between the two adverts was the religious nature of one over another, the rule infringed on Young Israel of Tampa's First Amendment rights.

Court documents state that HART implemented the ban on advertisements that "primarily promote a religious faith or religious organization" in 2013, saying it had "interests in ensuring safe and reliable transportation services."

In January, a federal appeals court in the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of Young Israel of Tampa, leading HART to appeal to the SCOTUS. On Friday, Marshall filed his brief supporting the synagogue, joined by 25 other state AGs.

"By unlawfully denying a Jewish synagogue's proposed holiday advertisement solely because it was religious, the transit authority brazenly targeted religious speech as the object of its discrimination," Marshall said. "Our 26-state coalition recognizes that such discrimination is a direct attack on the First Amendment, and we look forward to continuing our support of Young Israel."

The states that joined Marshall's brief are Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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