The Washington, D.C. Metro is facing a lawsuit this Christmas season after it refused to run an advertisement celebrating Christmas as the birth of Jesus.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington filed the lawsuit Tuesday challenging the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) decision about its ad. The diocese argues that the authority’s decision is a violation of free speech.
The ad shows silhouettes of a king and two shepherds gazing at the stars in the night sky, the words “Find the perfect gift” and a website with information about religious services, charity events and more.
“The rejected ad conveys a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season. Yet citing its guidelines, WMATA’s legal counsel said the ad ‘depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion,’” said Ed McFadden, secretary for communications for the archdiocese. “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.”
The Daily Caller reports the archdiocese ran ads through WMATA in the past. However, the authority changed its advertising guidelines in 2015, prohibiting “issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising.”
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.
“…WMATA’s rejection of the Archdiocese’s speech amounts to a violation of the First Amendment, plain and simple,” Clement said. “We are bringing this complaint to vindicate the basic principle that the government may not allow a wide variety of speech in a forum and then turn around and deny the Archdiocese access because of the religious nature of its speech.”
According to the Caller, WMATA also rejected an ad from the archdiocese for the papal visit to Washington, D.C. in 2015 because it included the image of a cross.