Nothing in the ad that the American Freedom Defense Initiative wants to place on local buses and trains in the Washington area violates Metro's scant guidelines on advertising, which ban false or misleading ads and not much else. The group's ad reads, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

That message may be seen as inflammatory, obnoxious or hateful but, as a federal judge noted in July in ordering New York's subway system to accept the ad, it is protected speech under the First Amendment.

So it is unlikely that Metro's decision to "defer" placing the ad on buses and trains will survive a lawsuit brought by the sponsoring group. Nor does Metro's stated rationale — a spokesman said that Metro wanted to wait "out of concern for public safety, given current world events" — seem likely to hold much water in a constitutional debate.

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