New Bus Ads Could Cause Controversy Again In Chapel Hill

By Rachel Nash Posted July 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm

CHAPEL HILL – Next month, you will likely see ads promoting peace in the Middle East in Chapel Hill Transit buses. Ads promoting an end to U.S. military support for Israel were posted last year, causing controversy due to the message.

The ads, which will be featured inside Chapel Hill Transit buses, read “Imagine Peace… in a Middle East where Israel and her neighbors share technology and resources to create a future of peace and prosperity for generations to come. The possibilities are endless.” The ad states it was paid for by the Stand With Us and Voice for Israel Organization, along with contact information for the organization.

The ads posted last year showed Palestinian and Israeli grandfathers holding their grandchildren. The Church of Reconciliation, a Presbyterian church in Chapel Hill, paid for the ads, which stated: “Join with us. Build peace with justice and equality. End U.S. military aid to Israel.” Some Chapel Hillians opposed the ads, saying they were offensive, while others said it was free expression as part of the First Amendment. The ads were taken down 10 days after being posted because they did not include the church’s contact information. The ads were then rewritten to list the required information and posted again.

The controversy also caused the Town Council to review Chapel Hill’s bus advertising policy. After several meetings and a public hearing, the Council voted to continue a policy of allowing bus ads with most religious and political views, as long as the subject matter was not offensive. This raised questions about how the Town would objectively determine if any ads were offensive. The council also voted to require clearly visible disclaimers on each bus that the town did not support the expressed opinions.

Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos reviewed the ad and found it complied with the Town’s guidelines, according to an email from Town Manager Roger Stancil. Two interior ads will be featured per bus.

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