Archdiocese of Washington Sues DC Transit System for Banning Their Christmas Ads


The Archdiocese of Washington in the USA hopes a federal judge will force the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to reverse its decision to reject the commercial.

The website the ad sought to promote says "Jesus is the flawless gift" and lists Mass times, Advent and Christmas traditions, and ways to give gifts to the less fortunate through Catholic Charities.

The website also includes a section about Catholic Advent and Christmas traditions and includes tips for how families can start their own traditions.

In its public statement, however, the Catholic Church argued that the ad did not breach the WMATA rules, as it simply "conveys a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season". "This is the simple one, just for Metro", Chieko Noguchi, the director of media relations, told Newsweek.

The ad depicts shepherds walking up a mountain and prompts Metro and bus riders to visit, an annual initiative that directs locals to visit the church during the Christmas season.

However, the authority changed its advertising guidelines in 2015, prohibiting "issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising". 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". "But if Christmas means a little bit more, WMATA plays Grinch", McFadden said. The Find The Perfect Gift website advertised on the proposed displays shows church teachings, Mass schedules, and upcoming charity events, and features the test "Jesus is the perfect gift", on its homepage. The Archdiocese did not propose an ad to be featured by WMATA again until the 2017 Christmas ad.

The Daily Caller reports the archdiocese ran ads through WMATA in the past.

The Archdiocese alleges in the lawsuit that WMATA's rejection of the ad is a "clear violation of fundamental free speech and a limitation on the exercise of our faith". "This campaign, 'The Light Is on for You, ' was remarkably successful for the archdiocese - and lucrative for WMATA - with advertisements on the backs of 85 buses throughout the metropolitan area". "The Archdiocese wishes to encourage our society to help feed, clothe, and care for our most vulnerable neighbors, and to share our blessings, and welcome all who wish to hear the Good News", Susan Timoney, the archdiocese's secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns, said in a statement.