The Trump administration is set to provide support to the Catholic Church’s lawsuit against the Washington D.C.’s public transit agency. The Agency had refused to take up a Christmas advertisement that had featured a manger scene.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority – WMATA is being sued by the Archdiocese of the Washington D.C. right after it had rejected an advertisement featuring silhouettes of shepherds who are on their way to visit the baby Christ along with a message saying ‘Find the Perfect Gift.’ The transit company says that the advertisement was rejected as the ad went on to violate the standards of the issue advocacy, which lead the Catholic Church to sue the transit company for not respecting their religious freedom. Trump administration too went on to file an Amicus brief to the D.C. Circuit Court of the Appeals, while arguing that the agency was engaged in the ‘unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.’
“WMATA’s guidelines permit messages which generally express commercial or charitable viewpoints, but exclude messages that express religious viewpoints,” the Department of Justice also argued in its brief. “WMATA’s own statements make clear that it rejected the Archdiocese’s proposal based on the ad’s religious viewpoint, not on the ad’s general subject matter.”
Furthermore, the agency also has previously defended its own standards, saying that they cut across all political and religious bounds and limits. “WMATA has simply prohibited advertisements related to the religious half of Christmas, but not the secular half,” it went on to say in a court filing. A WMATA spokesman had declined to comment.
The policy was brought forward with a temporary suspension on the issue advertisements in the start of 2015. WMATA found almost 58 percent of their riders to have objected to the advertisements that might have sparked a very strong reaction or vandalism of any form from those who would object, singling out the pro-life and pro-religious advocacy in their report.
“Those opposed to running issues ads that cause strong reactions (such as religious extremism, right to life, and political advertising) also find fewer issues acceptable than those that favor running such ads,” the report had said. “After considering input from riders and other stakeholders, WMATA staff recommend continuing the prohibition of issue-oriented and advocacy advertising indefinitely, as it may provoke community discord and create concern about discriminatory statements on the system.”
A Becket Fund spokesman went on to say a nice word about the Department of Justice for joining the case, saying, “It is a good thing that the Department of Justice thinks it’s okay to mention that Christmas has a religious side. It is bad thing that they have to say something that ought to be completely obvious. The Metro has better things to do than play speech police.”