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Archdiocese of Washington Sues Transit Authority After Rejection of Christmas Ad

Washington Metro Catches Catholic Church Sending Message

The Archdiocese of Washington is suing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) - the agency responsible for the city's metro system - for rejecting a Christmas ad.

The website the ad sought to promote says "Jesus is the ideal gift" and lists Mass times, Advent and Christmas traditions, and ways to give gifts to the less fortunate through Catholic Charities. That policy dates back to 2015, when a group with anti-Muslim views, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, purchased a set of ads on the D.C. transit system that contained an image of the prophet Mohammed, meant to be offensive to some Muslims.

Noguchi told TheDCNF that the Archdiocese has displayed adds featuring Bible verses on bus shelters through Clear Channel Outdoor, the company contracted by the DC government to operate bus shelter advertising.

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.

What is the D.C. Metro saying?

Jack Costello, a representative of Outfront Media, told Archdiocese spokesman Ed McFadden over the phone that if the ad "had a commercial goal, such as selling goods or services, then the advertisement would be more likely to comply with WMATA's guidelines".

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 changed its ad guidelines in 2015, however, to prohibit "issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising", according to WTOP.

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. "The ad in question was declined because it is prohibited by WMATA's current advertising guidelines".

Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said rejecting the ad was in line with the agency's policies. The Archdiocese did not propose an ad to be featured by WMATA again until the 2017 Christmas ad.

In his statement, the archdiocese said the advertisement simply conveys a message of hope.

The Archdiocese of Washington, the Catholic Church's branch in Washington DC, has filed a lawsuit against the regulatory authority, alleging that the ban violated its right to free speech.

The message of the ads, the archdiocese contends, is not all that controversial.