September 2018 Chuch & State Magazine - September 2018

Court Upholds D.C. Subway Ban On Religious Ads

  Rokia Hassanein

A federal appeals court has upheld a policy by the Washington, D.C., subway system, which bars religious messages in issue-oriented advertisements.

The Archdiocese of Washington sued the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), arguing that its policy, which states that “advertisements that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief are pro­hibited,” is a violation of the First Amendment.

Judge Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote in Archdiocese of Wash­ington v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Auth­ority that the archdiocese’s “claim of discriminatory treat­ment is based on hypothesis.”

“Were the Archdiocese to prevail, WMATA (and other transit systems) would have to accept all types of ad­ver­tisements to maintain viewpoint neutrality, including ads criticizing and disparaging religion and religious tenets or practices,” Rogers said. 

President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was among the panel of judges and during oral arguments, he stated that the Metro’s ban is “pure discrimination.”

“We welcome the court’s decision,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel told The Washington Post.

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