The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is suing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, after it blocked a proposed Christmas advertisement intended to “convey a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season.”
The proposed advertisement was intended to encourage spirituality and a return to the Catholic traditions and ideals of Christmas in a time when many get caught in the hustle and bustle of purchasing gifts and planning family get-togethers. It featured three silhouetted shepherds under a shining star, along with text that invited interested persons to visit their website, where they can learn about the Catholic traditions behind Christmas, view Mass times, and donate to charities.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington filed their lawsuit against the Washington Transit Authority in federal court calling it a violation of their First Amendment rights to free speech.
“We believe rejection of this ad to be 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” – Kim Fiorentino, the Archdiocese of Washington’s Chancellor and General Counsel
The Washington Transit Authority blocked the ad on the grounds that it promoted religion. They released a statement saying:
“In 2015, WMATA changed its advertising space to a nonpublic and prohibits issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising. The ad in question was declined because it is prohibited by WMATA’s current advertising guidelines.”
The Archdiocese said that the advertisement intended for the Washington Metro didn’t even include a verse from the Gospel of Luke as other versions do, and simply wanted to “convey a message of hope and extend an invitation to participate in the Christmas season.”
“Our ad was designed to be placed on metro bus exteriors to reach the broadest audience and to invite everyone to experience the well-accepted joyful spirit of the season, or to share their many blessings with others less fortunate through service opportunities. 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, Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese
The Archdiocese of Washington more than 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes, and 95 Catholic schools in Washington, D.C. along with five Maryland counties.