- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2017

A federal appeals court has ruled against rushing to force Metro into placing Christmas ads on D.C. buses, upholding a ban against the Archdiocese of Washington’s “Find the Perfect Gift” campaign.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied an emergency motion Wednesday that would’ve compelled Metro to immediately place the Christmas ads on city buses, which the transit agency said violate its policies against touting anything “issue-oriented, including political, religious and/or advocacy in nature.”

The Archdiocese of Washington sued Metro in D.C. District Court last month after the agency refused to advertise its Christmas campaign, citing rules against ads that “promote or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief.” The archdiocese appealed after the lower court ruled for Metro, and last week its attorneys filed an emergency motion for injunction pending appeal subsequently denied in Wednesday’s ruling.

Attorneys for the archdiocese accused Metro of viewpoint discrimination, but the federal appeals court said that that argument was “grounded in pure hypothesis.”

The archdiocese “has not come forward with a single example of a retail, commercial or other non-religious advertisement on a [Metro] bus that expresses the view that the holiday season should be celebrated in a secular or non-religious manner,” the ruling said.

The decision doesn’t dismiss the case against Metro, but it refuses the emergency injunction sought by the archdiocese and puts its case off until mid-February — well beyond when it hoped to advertise its “Find the Perfect Gift” campaign.

The rejected ads touted a website, findtheperfectgift.org, that urges visitors to “find the perfect gift of God’s love this Christmas.”

Metro “does not exclude religious speakers from advertising when their proposed messages comport with the allowed categories of speech,” the appeals court acknowledged. According to the District judge, however, the “sole purpose” of the campaign “is to promote religion.”

“We are disappointed by the court’s decision to not provide an emergency injunction, but will review next steps to ensure that regardless of the season, the Archdiocese of Washington can share and express our faith and serve the most vulnerable among us in the public square,” said Ed McFadden, the archdiocese secretary for communications, The Washington Post reported.

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