Catholic Church Sues DC Transit System for Rejecting Its Christmas Ad

  • Catholic Church Sues DC Transit System for Rejecting Its Christmas Ad

Catholic Church Sues DC Transit System for Rejecting Its Christmas Ad

In a statement, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the neighboring Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, said WMATA's decision "to suppress free speech and ban the depiction of a religious scene is saddening and troubling".

The Archdiocese of Washington filed suit in federal court November 28 over the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's advertising guidelines after the transit system rejected an Advent and Christmas advertisement. Chieko Noguchi, the spokesperson of the church said the metro advertisement was particularly made to avoid such a scenario. "It's a giving season, both spiritually and materially".

The ad is as simple as it subtle, displaying this slogan - "Find the Perfect Gift" - against a background of shepherds on a starry night.

Speaking to Newsweek, WMATA spokeswoman Sherri Ly said that the ad might have been accepted before 2015, when the transport authority chose to prohibit all "issue-orientated advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising".

But the Archdiocese is contesting the rejection, saying the ad "conveys a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season".

"Jesus is the ideal gift", the information on the website says.

The WMATA changed its policy for advertising space in 2015. WMATA responded by banning all "issue"-related ads".

The Archdiocese calls WMATA's ad guidelines discriminatory in the lawsuit, and asks a judge to overrule them and order WMATA to cover the legal costs incurred by the Archdiocese from the lawsuit.

According to official State data, only 13% of the DC's population is Catholic, though the Church's data pins the number of worshipers closer to 22%. "This campaign, 'The Light Is on for You, ' was remarkably successful for the archdiocese - and lucrative for WMATA - with advertisements on the backs of 85 buses throughout the metropolitan area". Now the archdiocese is suing the agency for violating its First Amendment rights.

He said the ad was submitted in late October to the agency that manages W.M.A.T.A. advertisements, Outfront Media, which rejected it within 24 hours.

"To borrow a phrase from a favorite Christmas story, under WMATA's guidelines, if the ads are about packages, boxes or bags...if Christmas comes from a store...then it seems WMATA approves", spokesman Ed McFadden said in a statement.

Mcfadden explained that giving the ad a commercial theme and still retaining the intended message would be impossible.