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Chapel Hill to decide on controversial transit ads

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TWC News: Chapel Hill to decide on controversial transit ads
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CHAPEL HILL -- Officials with the Chapel Hill Transit System will soon decide whether a controversial advertisement can run on its bus system.

The debate sparked when the Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill ran an ad on the bus system stating: End U.S. military aid to Israel.

Now the American Freedom Defense Initiative has put in a request of its own.

"This is deeply upsetting and I would expect that the residents of Chapel Hill would be up in arms, no matter what their position on the subject is," said Pamela Geller, executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. "They ran the anti-Israel ads, they're going to run my ads."

The AFDI said it's only fair their ad is posted for the six month period they requested. They believe it comes down to a matter of free speech and that both sides should have an equal opportunity to be presented.

"We will protect and defend the First Amendment all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to," Geller said.

Meanwhile, the town council held a public forum about the possibility of scaling back its policy on ads, limiting the advertisements to those free of political or religious-based messages.

The ads were implemented about a year ago as a way to generate additional revenue for the transit that's free to riders.

"We're currently reviewing it and once we've completed that review we'll address specific concerns and any shortcomings that it may have as it relates to the standards and policies that have been adopted by council," said Brian Litchfield, asst. transit director of Chapel Hill Transit.

Officials said a decision from staffers could come down within the next several days.

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