Turley: Washington METRO Says Catholic Christmas Ad 'Prohibited'

DC Archdiocese Sues Metro for Rejecting Christmas 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.

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

WMATA - which operates 1,500 buses throughout Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia - said it does not accept adverts which convey a political or religious message.

The graphics for the ads show the silhouette of what appear to be the Three Wise Men and a couple of sheep, staring up at the star announcing Christ's birth.

The advertisement promotes a website which explains why Christians celebrate Christmas and it helps people locate a Catholic mass service near them during the Christmas period.

According to Susan Timoney, secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the Archdiocese, "Our ad 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".

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However, the ad might have been caught by another WMATA rule that broadly proscribes "advertisements meant to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions". A letter sent to the archdiocese by lawyers representing Outfront said the ad was rejected because "it depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion".

As for the Christmas ads, the archdiocese says it hopes the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., will issue an injunction and order W.M.A.T.A.to accept the ads for this Advent, which begins December 3. McFadden scorned the transport authority by adding that WMATA is a grinch if the advertisement depicts anything more than presents.

"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.

Paul Clement of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, who is serving as counsel to the archdiocese in the case, said the issue comes down to freedom of speech.

"I pray that those with authority over WMATA guidelines will see reason and allow a simple, peaceful and joyful religious image to be displayed". Contributing to this story was Zoey Marist at the Arlington Catholic Herald diocesan newspaper.

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