Archdiocese of Washington files suit against DC Metro for banning religious ads
The Catholic archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has filed a lawsuit against the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority for refusing to run a Christmas-themed ad to promote "spiritual giving." The point is simple: Christmas is more than a holiday that "comes from a store."
Metro has banned all religious-themed ads this Christmas, even though the archdiocese's ads don't portray a Nativity scene or the baby Jesus. In fact, they claimed that the image of shepherds, stars, and sheep "promotes religion."
The archdiocese had a choice response to that idiotic notion.
Ed McFadden, secretary for communications for the Archdiocese of Washington, told the Washington Examiner, "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. But if Christmas means a little bit more, WMATA plays Grinch."
WMATA has allowed ads promoting the Salvation Army (a Christian church), and yoga – a form of Hindu spiritualism.
A spokespersons for WMTA said in a statement that it changed its policy in 2015. Lawyers for the archdiocese believe that the First Amendment rights of the Church are being infringed.
In August, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit alleging that WMATA's advertising guidelines violated free speech. Critics assert that the policies are vague. Plaintiffs in that suit include the ACLU, Carafem, Milo Worldwide LLC, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Carafem is an abortion provider. Milo Worldwide LLC is a corporation through which activist/journalist Milo Yiannopoulous operates. PETA is an animal rights organization.
The suit said WMATA rejected the following ads: an ACLU ad that displays the text of the First Amendment in multiple languages; an ad by Carafem advertising a "10-Week-After-Pill;" PETA ads suggesting people go vegan; and an ad for Yiannopoulous' book "Dangerous." Some of the ads sparked complaints.
ACLU legal director for the District of Columbia Arthur Spitzer told WTOP this year: "I think it's an indefensible policy to say that as soon as someone complains about an advertisement, we're going to take it down." Spitzer noted that irony that WMATA banned a display of the text of the First Amendment: "Metro is a government agency subject to the First Amendment," Spitzer said.
Given Metro's well documented management problems, I suppose we should expect inconsistency bordering on lunacy when it comes to its ad policies.
But the subjective procedures used by the mass transit company to approve or disapprove ads only breeds lawsuits. I have no doubt that if the people running the Metro had run the ads, some atheist or Muslim group would have complained, if not sued them to remove the advertisements. It appears that Metro was responding to that potential sticky situation rather than upholding the First Amendment rights of the Catholic Church and others.
In this instance, you can take your pick about who or what is under attack: free speech, the war on Christmas, or the war on Christianity. In fact, it is a war on common sense – a trait sorely lacking in government today.