DC Upholds Ban On Religious Bus Ads
The Washington Archdiocese is presently determining if and how they will fight the court’s ruling.
After a new ruling on July 31, buses in Washington D.C. will still not carry religious ads. This time, it was a panel of federal appeals judges who sided with the D.C’s Metro in their case to reject advertisements from any and all religions despite whether they promote or oppose a particular religion.
DC Upholds Ban On Religious Bus Ads[/tweetthis]
The case was brought by the Archdiocese of Washington, which claimed that the rejection of their ad represented a violation of First Amendment rights. In their view, it was particularly egregious because religious advertisements had been allowed on the sites of Metro buses in years past, sometimes to the detriment of the Catholic Church.
The rules preventing religious advertisements stemmed from 14 different guidelines created for advertisements in 2015 that effectively closed off the ability groups from promoting, disparaging, or representing any religious group in a positive or negative light. In 2015, the Metro banned all religious advertisements after Islamophobic bus ads had already started to appear on the buses from Pamela Geller, and were subsequently vandalized. The vandalism and decision to ban religious ads created another high profile case for which the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) had to pay over $30,000 in fees. Additionally, the rules were put into place over fears that recent attacks in places that featured Islamic ads, such as the Charlie Hebdo shooting, could make buses a likely target.
The new ruling produced several different opinions from the panel judges ranging from the concept that if one religion was accepted for advertisements on the bus, then all religions would have to be welcome. This would essentially make Metro unable to prevent the types of advertisements that the company fears could lead to violence or loss of life. Thus, as long as all religious institutions are banned, the rules are essentially fair.
Another judge considered the fact that it is not a violation of the First Amendment or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act since the rules do not discriminate against particular religious organizations or beliefs. By not taking particular sides, the Metro has essentially protected itself from any particular group that wants to run religious advertisements.
The Washington Archdiocese is presently determining if and how they will fight the court’s ruling. For now, though, all religious advertisements will be banned from the buses, which gain upwards of $20 million through advertisements throughout the year.