With Christmas less than a month away, the Archdiocese of Washington is encouraging consumers to "find the flawless gift" by attending church, seeking spiritual gifts and serving the poor.
However, the ad might have been caught by another WMATA rule that broadly proscribes "advertisements meant to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions". Despite the proposed ad's lack of scripture, Outfront Media, Inc., the company that contracts with WMATA to market advertising space, rejected the ad.
The Archdiocese has taken out ads for metro buses for a decade, most notably for their Lent initiative "The Light is ON for You", which encouraged people to stop by a Catholic church on Wednesday evenings to go to confession or for prayer and reflection. The Find The Perfect Gift website advertised on the proposed displays shows church teachings, Mass schedules, and upcoming charity events, and features the test "Jesus is the perfect gift", on its homepage.
A Catholic advertisement campaign has been rejected by the Washington Metro as it promotes "spiritual giving" and not presents. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
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"To borrow a phrase from a favorite Christmas story, under WMATA's guidelines, if the ads are about packages, boxes or bags...if Christmas comes from a store...then it seems WMATA approves", spokesman Ed McFadden said in a statement.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is now suing WMATA for rejecting ads from Carafem, Milo Yiannopoulos, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said rejecting the ad was in line with the agency's policies. In 2001, the group now known as Catholics for Choice purchased a number of ads on bus shelters and in subway cars expressing opposition to the church's stance against condoms. WMATA responded by banning all "issue"-related ads". According to the Post, Metro officials later said the condom ads provoked the "single largest negative response" in the transit system's history.
However, the Archdiocese believes the WMATA is restricting their freedom of speech and maintains that the ad "conveys a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season".
The message of the ads, the archdiocese contends, is not all that controversial.