To paraphrase Ebenezer Scrooge or, more recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., can keep Christmas in their way and the D.C. Metro can keep it in theirs.
In a 2-0 vote, a court panel ruled July 28 that the federally funded Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority can refuse advertising based on religious content. U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh heard oral arguments in March but recused himself from the decision. In two concurring opinions, the two remaining judges ruled the archdiocese failed to demonstrate the Metro impermissibly suppressed religious speech when it denied space to the sparsely worded Christmas ad last year.
The archdiocese called the Metro’s policy prohibiting advertisements “that promote or oppose any religion [or] religious practice” overly broad. But if the archdiocese prevailed, the Metro and other transit systems would be forced to accept “all types of advertisements” to maintain viewpoint neutrality, the court said.
Complaints about advertising content prompted the Metro to change its policy in 2015 and limit who could advertise with the agency.
The archdiocese has not announced whether it will appeal, but Ed McFadden, archdiocese secretary for communications, said the church “will continue to defend those rights at every opportunity.”
Maybe the archdiocese will wrap up an appeal in time for Christmas. —B.P.