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DC Archdiocese Sues Metro for Rejecting Christmas Ads

30 November 2017

The Archdiocese of Washington filed suit in federal court November 28 over the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's advertising guidelines after the transit system rejected an Advent and Christmas advertisement. Emblazoned across the ad is the phrase: "FIND THE PERFECT GIFT".

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

The Archdiocese of Washington is suing over an illustrative ad depicting the phrase "Find the flawless gift" under what appears to be the Star of Bethlehem and a group of shepherds.

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". Chieko Noguchi, the spokesperson of the church said the metro advertisement was particularly made to avoid such a scenario.

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.

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A spokesperson for the metro said that the policy prohibiting advertisements flavored with religious themes came into effect in 2015.

According to the lawsuit, a representative from Outfront told the archdiocese that "if the advertisement had a commercial objective, such as selling goods or services, then the advertisement would be more likely to comply with WMATA's guidelines".

Kim Fiorentino, the Archdiocese of Washington's Chancellor and General Counsel, said: "We believe rejection of this ad to be a clear violation of fundamental free speech and a limitation on the exercise of our faith". "Yet citing its guidelines, WMATA's legal counsel said the ad 'depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion'".

The WMATA changed its policy for advertising space in 2015. "But if Christmas means a little bit more, WMATA plays Grinch".

They also say that the imagery on their ad isn't even very religious - since it doesn't show Jesus, the manger or a cross. WMATA responded by banning all "issue"-related ads". The ad in question was declined because it is prohibited by WMATA's current advertising guidelines, ' said Sherri Ly, manager of media relations. Unsurprisingly, the archdiocese explained that it "could not conceive of a way to adjust the advertisement given the objective and message of the campaign".

DC Archdiocese Sues Metro for Rejecting Christmas Ads