A federal court ruled against the Archdiocese of Washington DC in a suit involving the refusal by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to allow a Christmas-themed ad on its buses. The Archdiocese responded by filing an appeal.
NBC is reporting on the appeal which the Archdiocese filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals after a federal judge denied their request to put an on buses that depicted shepherds and sheep with the words, “Find the Perfect Gift.” The Archdiocese says rejection of the ad due to its religious nature is imposing restrictions on the church’s First Amendment rights.
The Metro claimed that they changed its advertising policy in 2015 to prohibit issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising and that the ad in question was declined because of these new guidelines.
However, as the Archdiocese pointed out in their suit, the Metro has accepted ads promoting yoga and the Salvation Army since the rules change.
A judge agreed with the Metro’s position and the diocese promptly filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to overturn the lower court’s decision.
“When WMATA allows advertisements addressing commercial aspects of the holidays, and suggests it would permit the Archdiocese’s advertisement if it were more commercially-oriented, its prohibition of an advertisement emphasizing the “religious half” of the season is impermissible viewpoint discrimination,” the appeal states.
“A retailer offering to help consumers ‘find the perfect gift’ during the holiday season would be welcomed, but a message suggesting that the perfect gift can be found on altars, rather than shopping aisles, is verboten,” it continues.
“The undeniable reality is that the commercial and spiritual aspects of the season make competing demands on people, and it is undeniable that WMATA allows advertisements promoting “the secular half” of Christmas, but not ‘the religious half.’ Indeed, it seems clear that while Macy’s could advertise its extended holiday hours, the Archdiocese could not advertise its own extended holiday hours. Under Rosenberger such distinctions amount to viewpoint discrimination plain and simple.”
Ed McFadden, Secretary for Communications for the Archdiocese of Washington, explains what this suit is really all about:
“In ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’ he asks, ‘Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?’ Linus responds, ‘Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.’ That is what the archdiocese wants to do with the www.FindthePerfectGift.org ad campaign. In a society concerned more with what’s under the tree, and where the birth of Jesus is treated as an intrusive element to the season, we simply want to share the real Christmas story, the full joy of Christmas, with our neighbors and share the Christmas spirit with those in need.”
The Constitution gives us the right to “let our light shine” at Christmas and throughout the year, which is a privilege worth fighting for.
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