Washington, D.C.

D.C. Metro Hit With First Amendment Suit For Refusing to Run Catholic Christmas Ad

What do the Catholic Church, the ACLU, PETA, and Milo Yiannopoulos have in common? None of them can buy ads on the D.C. subway.

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This ad is too controversial for the D.C. subway

The District of Columbia's transit system won't let the local archdiocese buy space for a Christmas-themed advertisement. Now the archdiocese is suing the agency for violating its First Amendment rights.

In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed today against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority—commonly called Metro—the archdiocese argues that the agency's refusal to run its ads "effectively silences any viewpoint that might challenge commercialism or consumerism or attempt to emphasize the religious reason for the season."

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." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against Metro in August on behalf of four plaintiffs, including itself, who were denied advertising space by the government agency. In the ACLU's instance, the rejected ad was literally the text of the First Amendment.

The other plaintiffs in the ACLU case are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a local abortion provider, and noted troll Milo Yiannopoulos.

Metro adopted the policy in 2015 after anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller attempted to buy ad space on the subway.

In the current case, the archdiocese was attempting to purchase space on buses and at bus stops for its "Find the Perfect Gift" campaign. The ads in question are fairly minimalist, showing a starry sky, the silhouettes of shepherds, the slogan, and the campaign's web address and hashtag. According to the lawsuit, the goal "is to encourage individuals to seek spiritual gifts during this Christmas season, and to offer members of the community public service opportunities to serve our most 5 vulnerable neighbors in the winter months when many material needs increase and become more challenging."

That, apparently, was too controversial for D.C. commuters. When the archdiocese contacted Jack Costello, a third-party vendor that contracts with Metro, he told them that the ads would not comply with Metro guidelines.

"Costello had mentioned that if the advertisement had a commercial purpose, such as selling goods or services, then the advertisement would be more likely to comply," the lawsuit states. Unsurprisingly, the archdiocese explained that it "could not conceive of a way to adjust the advertisement given the purpose and message of the campaign."

The agency's regulations have resulted in an absurd situation where it rejects innocuous ads from nonprofit and advocacy groups but allows other ads from profit-motivated government contractors, such as Raytheon and Northrop-Grumman, that are obviously trying to influence bureaucrats and lawmakers.

In addition to being absurd, the policy is almost certainly unconstitutional. This is the sort of bone-headed decision you get when public officials are tasked with judging what content is too upsetting for public consumption.

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  1. They will lose.
    Washington DC has been a constitution free zone for decades.

    1. Not selling people ad space is not infringing on their free speech rights.

      1. Everyone can buy ads on the metro…except the religious. Wait, I though the government couldn’t prohibit the free exercise of religion. Silly me. That’s only the first right of the Bill of Rights.

        1. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,

          go? to tech tab for work detail,,, http://www.onlinecareer10.com

      2. Except that the DC government exists on the sufferance of the Federal government, and the DC Metro is an agency of that government. Therefore, the 1st Amendment applies to the Metro even more than it would to a normal local government.

        1. Not even close.
          Due to its dependence on the federal government, they are exempt from the constitution, just like congress.

          1. Not even close …

            The most bass-ackwards reasoning I suspect I’ll see all day and it’s only mid-day, local; I think I’ll go take a nap.

  2. They were right to do so. Everything Catholics do is a trap to kidnap children and transubstantiate them in their dark rituals. Trust me, I know.

    1. Is that how the gingerbread man came into existence?

  3. The ads in question are fairly minimalist

    Not relevant. Why even comment on it? An ad in 2′ type that says: GOD ROCKS. NON-BELIEVERS SHALL BURN is also protected…assuming ads can be 2′ high 😉

  4. “”Costello had mentioned that if the advertisement had a commercial purpose, such as selling goods or services, then the advertisement would be more likely to comply,” the lawsuit states. Unsurprisingly, the archdiocese explained that it “could not conceive of a way to adjust the advertisement given the purpose and message of the campaign.””

    No indulgence-selling jokes? You’re losing your edge, commenters.

    1. You should drop-in at Glibs

      1. So funny I forgot to laugh.

        1. Wasn’t being funny. People miss your articles

          1. I can’t come back even if I would. And wouldn’t come back even if I could. So there it is.

            1. Don’t leave us here Eddie 🙁

              1. I’ll stay around here until I accidentally hit “submit” on one of my hilarious jokes about the staff.

                1. I still wonder what it takes to get banned her. I’m pretty sure AmSoc got banned for spamming, which I think is the only bannable offense.

                  1. Annie’s uncle Fred is right, you can make million$$$ posting spam ads, click here to see how it’s done…

                  2. I think he was using GILMORE’s handle.

                    1. That’s bannable huh?

                      When are we gonna ban the guy who took the Eddie tag while he was abroad? Every time I read poor Eidde’s handle I think he’s referring to an ancient Icelandic folkloric tome. It’s tragic.

                    2. Is it? I wouldn’t know, I’ve never read it.

  5. *DC Metro bans abortion advertisement*

    ACLU: This is outrageous!

    *DC Metro bans Catholic advertisement*

    ACLU: That’s just sensible government policy

    1. I suspect the ACLU would like to have the archdiocese as a client, just so they could say they’re representing the Church and an abortion guy at the same time. That’s the same reason the archdiocese probably *didn’t* join the ACLU suit but filed their own.

      (Plus the Church already has its own experienced legal team for some reason)

      1. I wonder if the fact that the ACLU spends most of its efforts suing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and transgender surgery had anything to do with the fact that the archdiocese didn’t want to team up with them?

  6. Huxleyan conditioning has slowly replaced Orwellian brainwashing and the Inquisition. Still, the purpose of organized mysticism is the initiation of force. But the purpose of organizing intellectuals of the looter persuasion is also the initiation of force. That is what they imagine “the free exercise thereof” really means. The trick is to play the record backwards so the hidden messages become audible.

  7. “intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions.”

    That is literally the purpose of *every* ad.

  8. WMATA’s policy is ridiculous. But it seems just a little less ridiculous when you realize how and why it was put in place. Originally, they only banned ads that really seemed offensive. In particular, they banned ads by Pamela Geller’s anti-Muslim organization that were, well, blatantly insulting to Muslims. She sued, and they had to run the ads, if I remember correctly. That’s when they adopted the policy of banning ALL issue-oriented ads, so that they could ban Geller’s ads in the future, without being accused of viewpoint discrimination. (Or am I confusing them with New York’s MTA? I don’t think so.)

  9. I do wonder why the judgmental language for Milo and none for the thoroughly loathsome PETA. PETA is an evil, evil organization. Killing the vast majority of the animals they take. Utter hypocrisy on their stance on animal testing.

    1. I like to remind people who say they like PETA that they kill more dogs than any other group in the country. Celebrity ads aside, at one time they had several refrigerated trailers full of dead dogs in VA.

  10. “What do the Catholic Church, the ACLU, PETA, and Milo Yiannopoulos have in common? None of them can buy ads on the D.C. subway.”

    Did you think they called it TOTALitarianism for nothing?

  11. “The agency’s regulations have resulted in an absurd situation where it rejects innocuous ads from nonprofit and advocacy groups but allows other ads from profit-motivated government contractors, such as Raytheon and Northrop-Grumman, that are obviously trying to influence bureaucrats and lawmakers.”

    I dunno, honesty has its virtues.

  12. noted troll Milo Yiannopoulos

    “free minds”

    1. No mind can truly be free once it makes an informed judgement about something.

  13. 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.”

    Aside from the freedom of speech issue, this appears to be rooted in “Fake News” hysteria, which makes sense considering this is Washington DC. It’s actually very subjective and Orwellian in nature: “issues-oriented” or “intended to influence”. Any advertising space bought is “intended to influence”.

  14. There are ads on WMATA? Last time I rode I was way way too busy observing everyone and everything to notice. Didn’t have to do that on the s-bahn 10 years ago, I wonder how they are getting along nowadays?

  15. Who, other than new residents of DC, like myself, even read the ads on the metro. I’ve been here just over one month, and it only took me about 2 weeks to stop noticing the ads. I do agree, however, that the METRO should allow these ads.

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