Perhaps marking the beginning of the end of religious freedom in America, a federal court has denied a request by the area’s Catholic Archdiocese to force the DC Metro to take its Christmas advertisements.
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington DC denied the Catholic Church’s request essentially saying (for now, anyway) that the DC mass transit system had a right to deny the church’s advertisements because it was “too religious” and would “offend” some people, BizPacReview reported.
Naturally, church officials said that the denial is unconstitutional discrimination against its religious beliefs.
The ads were set to promote the Catholic Church’s Christmas holiday campaign called “Find the Perfect Gift.” Naturally, the campaign encourages people to attend church service during the Christmas holiday.
The ads were denied in adherence to a 2015 decision by the mass transit system to ban all “issue-oriented advertising” on the capital city’s trains and busses. This ban was set in place to prevent the anti-Islam ads being sought by activist Pam Geller.
The guidelines were set to prohibit “advertisements intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions” and “advertisements that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice, or belief.”
The Metro has also denied animal rights activist ads as well as ads for Milo Yiannopoulos and abortion rights activists. At one point, the ACLU also filed a lawsuit against the Metro to overturn the ban.
This year, it was the DC Catholic Archdiocese’s turn to take the Metro to court and they had no better luck than previous litigants.
“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,” Ed McFadden, secretary for communications for the Archdiocese of Washington said.
But, last week the Court of Appeals decided to reject the demands by the Archdiocese. Still, the court didn’t exactly rule on the merits of the case, but simply rejected the injunction to force the Metro to take the ads and left in place a lower court’s order that the Metro’s ban is legitimate and should stand.
However, the Court did warn the litigants to prepare for an expedited briefing and argument in the case. The Court ordered that the briefings must be filed by mid-February. Oral arguments will begin as soon as both sides have filed their briefs.
In any case, one might think that this whole case is obviously unconstitutional. How can a city-operated mass transit company summarily deny ads from a Catholic Church? After all, this is a government entity denying free speech and freedom of religion and that seems the very definition of a violation of Constitutional rights.
On the other hand, the Metro calls it a matter of public safety. They maintain that their property and riders may become targets if they accept provocative ads. And in this day and age, one can see the logic of their argument.
But, really, what it says is that we need to tell a lot of people to just shut up and calm down. If you get so incensed by a piece of cardboard plastered on the side of a bus that you get violent, you need serious mental help, maybe even a jail cell.
[Note: This post was written by Warner Todd Huston]