A federal court has ruled against the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., in an ongoing battle between the Archdioceses and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency (WMATA).
This fall, the Archdiocese — who say they have run ads with WMATA for years — sought to run this ad on WMATA buses during Advent, according to WJLA.
The ad points people to a website that invites people to find their local Catholic parish and come to church for Christmas.
But WMATA balked. They rejected the ad on the basis that the ad was an “issue-oriented” one — and the agency has banned “issue-based” ads of a political, religious or other advocacy nature since 2015.
That ban came about after the conservative American Freedom Defense Initiative sought to run an cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2015. That year, the group’s “Draw Muhammad” day in Garland, Texas, also drew two shooters, who opened fire on a guard at the event before they were shot and killed.
WMATA responded to the controversial request at the time by issuing the blanket ban on political and religious ads. The Archdiocese of Washington says they understand the ban — and designed their ad accordingly, leaving out any overt references to Christmas or Christianity.
That wasn’t enough for WMATA, who saw religious symbols in the group of shepherds in the corner and refused to run the ad. The Archdiocese also says WMATA was unwilling to meet with them to revise the ad to fit within their guidelines.
They filed suit, alleging a violation of their First Amendment rights and describing the embattled transit agency as “hostile to religion” but failed to secure an injunction to force WMATA to run the ads.
The Archdiocese is, understandably, disappointed. Ed McFadden, Secretary of Communications for the Archdiocese, says they will continue the fight:
While this preliminary ruling that there should be no room made for us on WMATA buses is disappointing, we will continue in the coming days to pursue and defend our right to share the important message of Christmas in the public square.