The Archdiocese of Washington has filed a federal lawsuit against Metro after the transit agency refused to sell space on buses for Christmas fundraising ads, citing its ban on "issue-oriented advertising."
The suit filed Tuesday argues that Metro is "hostile to religion" and violates the Archdiocese's right to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion by rejecting the ad. The design says "Find the perfect gift" and shows shepherds and sheep, as in a classic Nativity scene.
"WMATA’s ban on advertisements that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief has established a regime that is hostile to religion," the suit says. "The ban effectively silences any viewpoint that might challenge commercialism or consumerism or attempt to emphasize the religious reason for the season."
Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said rejecting the ad was in line with the agency's policies.
"In 2015, WMATA changed its advertising policy to prohibit issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising," she said in a statement. "The ad in question was declined because it is prohibited by WMATA’s current advertising guidelines."
Metro barred political and religious advertising after an activist group submitted a cartoon depiction of the Prophet Muhammad to run as an ad at Metrorail stations and on buses.
The same group hosted a contest to draw Muhammad in May 2015 in Texas. Two gunmen opened fire on an security officer there and then were killed.
Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story.