Christmas bus advert banned

Jon Howard
November 30, 2017

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington filed the lawsuit Tuesday challenging the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) decision about its ad.

The advertisements rejected by WMATA highlight the archdiocese's annual "Find the Perfect Gift" campaign, which refers views to the FindThePerfectGift.org website that includes Mass schedules, reflections on the meaning of Advent and Christmas, religious holiday traditions and opportunities for charitable service. "This is the simple one, just for Metro", Chieko Noguchi, the director of media relations, told Newsweek.

Susan Timoney, secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the archdiocese, noted that the rejected advertisement "was created to be placed on Metro bus exteriors to reach the broadest audience and to invite everyone to experience the well-accepted joyful spirit of the season, or to share their many blessings with others less fortunate through service opportunities".

The transit authority defended the ban citing a 2015 change in its advertising policies that banned issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising.

According to the church's lawsuit, Metro denied these ads through a lawyer because it "depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion". "But if Christmas means a little bit more, WMATA plays Grinch", he said.

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.

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Metro has rejected ads before, and, as the "Unsuck DC Metro" account pointed out, ends up racking up legal fees defending their censorship.

Metro adopted the policy in 2015 after anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller attempted to buy ad space on the subway. "The ad in question was declined because it is prohibited by WMATA's current advertising guidelines". Launched to commemorate World AIDS Day, the ads read, "Because the bishops ban condoms, innocent people die", and they urged readers to "Join the Global Campaign to End the Bishops' Ban on Condoms".

By refusing to run the ads, the church says their Constitutional rights to free speech and freedom to practice religion are being infringed.

"We hope for a prompt resolution of this clear violation of the First Amendment so that the Archdiocese's message of generosity and call to faith be on display around the nation's capital this Christmas".

"Although all of the campaign's distribution channels are helpful for spreading the Archdiocese's message, there is no medium that will reach the Archdiocese's broad audience as consistently or effectively as bus advertising", the complaint reads.

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