Wednesday, November 29, 2017

DC Archdiocese Sues Over Rejection of Christmas Season Bus Ads

The Washington, D.C. Catholic Archdiocese yesterday filed suit in federal district court against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority after WMATA rejected ads designed to be placed on the exterior of buses promoting the Archdiocese's "Find the Perfect Gift" Campaign.  The complaint (full text) in Archdiocese of Washington v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, (D DC, filed 11/28/2017), describes the ads:
the advertisements depict, in minimalist style, a starry night, with silhouettes of a small group of shepherds and sheep standing on a hill. All of the advertisements refer to an Internet site,, which contains links to Mass schedules, opportunities for charitable service, information about religious holiday traditions, and reflections on the meaning of the Advent and Christmas seasons. The advertisements also refer to a social-media hashtag, #PerfectGift.
The WMATA advertising Guidelines prohibit ads that "promote or oppose any religion, religious practice, or belief."  The complaint alleges that the Guidelines as applied to this ad violate the Archdiocese's 1st amendment free speech and free exercise rights, RFRA, as well as denying it equal protection and due process.  The Archdiocese issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.