Published: Thu, November 30, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

DC Archdiocese Sues Metro for Rejecting Christmas Ads

DC Archdiocese Sues Metro for Rejecting Christmas Ads

With Christmas less than a month away, the Archdiocese of Washington is encouraging consumers to "find the ideal gift" by attending church, seeking spiritual gifts and serving the poor.

The transit authority in Washington, D.C., is being sued after rejecting an ad it deemed too religious for display.

"The archdiocese has in previous years advertised on WMATA's public buses".

Metro has rejected ads before, and, as the "Unsuck DC Metro" account pointed out, ends up racking up legal fees defending their censorship. Unsurprisingly, the archdiocese explained that it "could not conceive of a way to adjust the advertisement given the goal and message of the campaign".

In addition to its Christmas campaign, the archdiocese has used Metro bus advertising in the past to promote a Lenten reconciliation campaign and for papal visits to Washington in 2008 and 2015.

They also say that the imagery on their ad isn't even very religious - since it doesn't show Jesus, the manger or a cross.

What is the D.C. Metro saying?

"To borrow 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", Ed McFadden, communications secretary for the archdiocese, said.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the WMATA in August over its advertising guidelines on behalf of three parties - Carafem, Milo Worldwide LLC, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - charging that it violated freedom of speech, according to WTOP-FM.

Metro's guidelines also prohibit "advertisements meant to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions".

The archdiocese has scuffled with the the past. The Archdiocese did not propose an ad to be featured by WMATA again until the 2017 Christmas ad.

"As the papers filed in Court today make clear, WMATA's rejection of the Archdiocese's speech amounts to a violation of the First Amendment, plain and simple", Paul Clement, counsel to the Archdiocese said in a press release.

"The rejected ad conveys a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season".

The message of the ads, the archdiocese contends, is not all that controversial. "The Archdiocese wishes to encourage our society to help feed, clothe, and care for our most vulnerable neighbors, and to share our blessings, and welcome all who wish to hear the Good News".

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