The Washington D.C. archdiocese is suing over a Christmas ad rejected by the Metropolitan Area Transit Authority even though it doesn’t mention the holiday and only has images of stars, sheep, and shepherds.
The rejected advertisement promotes the Archdiocese of Washington's annual "Find the Perfect Gift" initiative. The archdiocese announced the suit on Tuesday.
"The rejected ad conveys a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season," said Ed McFadden, secretary for communications for the archdiocese. "Yet citing its guidelines, WMATA's legal counsel said the ad 'depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion.'"
"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," McFadden said.
Kim Fiorentino, the Archdiocese of Washington's chancellor and general counsel, said that the archdiocese believes the ad rejection was a clear violation of fundamental free speech and a limitation on the exercise of our faith.
"We look forward to presenting our case to affirm the right of all to express such viewpoints in the public square," Fiorentino 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.
The radio station said Carafem is a health care corporation that provides abortion and family planning care, Milo Worldwide LLC is a corporation that supports conservative personality Milo Yiannopoulous, and PETA is an animal rights organization.
"Almost everybody rides the bus or the subway or sees the bus go by," ACLU legal director for the District of Columbia Arthur Spitzer, told WTOP in August. "And it's a way to get your message to people who might not otherwise see it, and that’s a very valuable thing to our society."
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