The Catholic Church is suing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which regulates the advertisement on DC's transportation network, for banning one of its Christmas season ads in the U.S. capital, where less than 50 percent of the population expressly identifies as Christian. Emblazoned across the ad is the phrase: "FIND THE PERFECT GIFT".
The WMATA changed its policy for advertising space in 2015.
The ads were rejected by Metro for being religious in nature. "This campaign, 'The Light Is on for You, ' was remarkably successful for the archdiocese - and lucrative for WMATA - with advertisements on the backs of 85 buses throughout the metropolitan area".
Susan Timoney, secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the archdiocese, noted that the rejected advertisement "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".
A Catholic advertisement campaign has been rejected by the Washington Metro as it promotes "spiritual giving" and not presents.
"Jesus is the flawless gift", the website says.
Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties filed a suit after the agency rejected one of their ads promoting the First Amendment.
Ed McFadden, the secretary of communications, Archdiocese of Washington, said if one goes by the rules as implied by DC metro, then only advertisements containing images of bags, boxes or packages are acceptable, as if Christmas is only about shopping.
A FOX News article noted that the advertisement depicted the North Star with silhouettes of three shepherds walking with staffs and sheep, accompanied by the words, "FIND THE PERFECT GIFT".
The Daily Caller reports the archdiocese ran ads through WMATA in the past. They were joined in the suit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, by a provider of abortions and by conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, all of whom also had ads rejected by the transit agency. WMATA responded by banning all "issue"-related ads". "The ad in question was declined because it is prohibited by WMATA's current advertising guidelines".
"Someone [is] sitting there at transit like Caesar.", Turley said.
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".