DC buses can ban ‘religious’ Christmas ads, judge rules
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 11, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A federal court has ruled against the Archdiocese of Washington, DC (ADW) in its quest to display Christmas ads on the city’s Transit Authority buses.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) refused to sell advertising space to the ADW for its Advent awareness campaign, which invites people to find Christ through the Catholic Church during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
The ADW applied for the space in October, and received a rejection notice from a law firm representing WMATA a month later. “[T]he Archdiocese’s advertisement for ‘FindThePerfectGift.org’ is prohibited … because it depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion.”
The “religious scene” at the heart of the controversy depicts three wise men and two sheep standing on a sand dune, shown in silhouette.
The Archdiocese responded by filing a suit in federal court, asserting that WMATA’s rejection of the ad is “hostile to religion” and violated the Archdiocese's right to freedom of speech.
The court rejected the ADW’s assertion, saying that WMATA is allowed to turn down such advertising because of the transit authority’s recently instituted guidelines against all “issues-oriented advertising.”
“In 2015, WMATA changed its advertising policy to prohibit issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising,” said Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly in a statement. “The ad in question was declined, because it is prohibited by WMATA's current advertising guidelines.”
According to Washington DC’s local NBC affiliate, “Metro decided to bar all political and religious advertising after an activist group submitted a cartoon depiction of the Prophet Muhammad to run as an ad at Metrorail stations and on buses.”
While WMATA denied the archdiocese’ ad request, the Transit Agency permits “advertisements that promote yoga practices as a mechanism to ‘take you on an inner journey of self-discovery’ and to lead to the ‘acknowledgment of one soul to another,’” writes Margot Cleveland at The Federalist.
Cleveland adds, “Metro also regularly runs Christmas-themed advertisements that promote commercialism, while discriminating against the archdiocese’ viewpoint proclaimed in its proposed ad: The perfect gift doesn’t involve materialism.”