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WMATA rejects religious Christmas ad

The Archdiocese of Washington filed a legal action against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Nov. 28 after an ad for its “Find the Perfect Gift” Christmas campaign was rejected.

crop wmata ad rejected

 The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority rejected the Archdiocese of Washington’s “Find the Perfect Gift” Christmas ad for being “non-commercial advertising,” according to the complaint.  COURTESY

“WMATA’s decision to suppress free speech and ban the depiction of a religious scene is saddening and troubling,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington. “WMATA approves the commercialization of Christmas by showing ads depicting gifts and material goods, but unfortunately the portrayal of the reason we celebrate this time of year — the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — is a guideline violation.

“This egregious action should be reversed and I applaud Cardinal Donald Wuerl and the Archdiocese of Washington for courageously addressing this issue,” Bishop Burbidge said. “I pray that those with authority over WMATA guidelines will see reason and allow a simple, peaceful and joyful religious image to be displayed. Religious freedom must be upheld!”  

As recently as 2015, the archdiocese advertised with WMATA for its Lenten “The Light Is On For You” campaign, which promotes the availability of confession in the archdiocese and in the Diocese of Arlington. The Christmas ad, which depicts silhouettes of shepherds under a starry sky, directs viewers to a website listing local Mass times, Advent and Christmas traditions, catechetical resources and ways to serve those in need. The archdiocese planned to promote the campaign via social media and ads on bus shelters, as well as on Metro buses. 

“The rejected ad conveys a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season. Yet citing its guidelines, WMATA’s legal counsel said the ad ‘depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion,’ ” said Ed McFadden, secretary for communications for the archdiocese.

“To borrow 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. But if Christmas means a little bit more, WMATA plays Grinch,” he said.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017