Either the folks who run the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority don’t want to understand how the U.S. Constitution, marketing and free speech work — or ignorance has finally taken its toll on the lot.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington filed a lawsuit on Tuesday after Metro rejected an advertisement for the Christmas shopping season.
The “Find the Perfect Gift” ad includes a backdrop that depicts shepherds with their flock of sheep looking up into a starry sky and directs viewers to FindthePerfectGift.org, where visitors can find information about local parishes and Christmas traditions.
The archdiocese says Metro nixed the ad because it “depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion.”
For an agency whose leaders continue to bellyache about revenue sources, Metro seems to relish blocking revenue streams.
In August, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Metro after the transit agency banned several ads that stretched from one end of the political spectrum (Milo Yiannopoulos’ book “Dangerous”) to the other (Carafem Health Center abortion services). In between were several PETA ads urging people to “Go Vegan.”
Metro even kicked an ACLU ad off the revenue block because it displayed text of the First Amendment.
Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Metro explained itself via an email from spokeswoman Sherry Ly to CNN: “In 2015, WMATA changed its advertising policy to prohibit issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising.”
Guess that means Smokey Bear has to keep his mouth shut about the dangers of forest fires.
Popeye can’t advocate the health benefits of spinach.
Miley Cyrus can’t encourage young people to vote.
Advocacy ads against smoking, unsafe sex and drunken driving, and for adopting pets are no more.
Christmas-time marketing is tied to the birth of Jesus Christ. And whether it’s called “winter break” or “winter holiday,” the intent and reason remain the same.
Honestly, it’s plain and simple what’s going here: The people who run Metro want to zip the public’s mouths, even as they beg and plead for the public’s money.
The public square is the best place for advocacy.
Transit advertising encouraging people to do what merchants do every year — that is, “Find the Perfect Gift” — creates no harm and no foul.
Indeed, divine intervention may be exactly what’s needed at Metro.
‘Tis the season to suspend the boneheaded guidelines, Metro. People are going to balk anyway.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at email@example.com.