The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) rejected a Christmas advertisement from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese on the grounds that it ran afoul of guidelines for religious advertising.
With Christmas less than a month away, the Archdiocese of Washington is encouraging consumers to "find the flawless gift" by attending church, seeking spiritual gifts and serving the poor.
The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. wanted to place this ad in the DC Metro system, but was barred under the transit system's rules.
The WMATA changed its policy for advertising space in 2015.
He said the ad was submitted in late October to the agency that manages W.M.A.T.A. advertisements, Outfront Media, which rejected it within 24 hours.
"Although all of the campaign's distribution channels are helpful for spreading the Archdiocese's message, there is no medium that will reach the Archdiocese's broad audience as consistently or effectively as bus advertising", the complaint reads.
The church planned to roll out a series of ads on the sides of buses and on bus kiosks promoting Christmas mass schedules and ways to help the needy during the holiday season.
A Metro spokesman says that religious advertisements have been banned since 2015. "Yet citing its guidelines, WMATA's legal counsel said the ad 'depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion, '" said Ed McFadden, the secretary for communications for the Archdiocese of Washington in a written statement.
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. WMATA responded by banning all "issue"-related ads".
The lawsuit is the second First Amendment challenge filed this year against Metro's policy of banning ads that are "issues-oriented" or "intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions". According to the Post, Metro officials later said the condom ads provoked the "single largest negative response" in the transit system's history.
"Our ad was created 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", Susan Timoney, secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the archdiocese, said.