Courthousenews.com reports that a Washington, D.C. circuit court has issued an order that will result in city buses without Christmas advertisements this year. The Archdiocese requested an injunction while filing for an appeal to a federal judge’s ruling that the buses do not have to display the advertisements for the church, which the circuit court denied.
More than 62,000 Catholics call the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. “home,” and sued the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in November after it refused to post the church’s Christmas ads on its buses. The ads in question featured images of shepherds, sheep and a large gold star, portraying the story of the three wise men. Text on the ads read “Find the perfect gift” with a web address for the church’s mass times and Christmas information.
The church’s suit claimed the Metro was exhibiting unlawful discrimination based on viewpoint, but the Metro countered by stating it has a policy which prohibits any religious holiday ads. However, it does allow secular ads, according to the court’s order.
On December 11, the court ruled that the Metro’s policy was reasonable and messages displayed on public transit do not carry the benefits of First Amendment protections. The church appealed the decision and asked the court to enjoin its order during appeal, but the request was denied, as the court didn’t think the merits of the case would succeed, says Courthousenews.com.
The court also stated in its ruling that the church did not show that the policy hindered free exercise of religion: “Although WMATA has declined one proposed advertisement, appellant has not demonstrated how, in the absence of viewpoint discrimination, that decision substantially burdens the appellant’s ability to exercise its religion,” according to Courthousenews.com.
The order is also very clear that its decision has no bearing on what will happen when both parties can “fully brief the issues.” A hearing has been expedited for January 12, 2018.