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DC Metro’s rejection of Christian bus ad violates First Amendment: ACLU lawsuit
Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images

DC Metro’s rejection of Christian bus ad violates First Amendment: ACLU lawsuit

The American Civil Liberties Union partnered with First Liberty Institute to file a lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for rejecting a Christian group’s bus advertisement.

The lawsuit claims that the WMATA’s advertising policies violate the First Amendment after the authority denied an advertisement from WallBuilders, an “organization dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes,” according to its website.

Earlier this year, WallBuilders sought to have its ads placed on the side of WMATA’s buses to “promote its religious and educational mission, which is to inform the public about the role that the Founders’ religious faith played in the creation of the nation and the drafting of the Constitution,” the complaint explained.

The four rejected ads featured images of George Washington and the signing of the United States Constitution with a QR code link. Two of the ads overlay the words, “Christian? To find out about the faith of our founders, go to Wallbuilders.com.” The other two ads made no explicit mention of Christianity or religion and simply read, “Visit Wallbuilders.com.”

According to the complaint, the WMATA refused to run the ads because “they related to issues on which there are varying public opinions.”

“Though WMATA never identified the specific issue of public controversy that it believed the proposed advertisements addressed, it is apparent that WallBuilders was prohibited from advertising because its proposed ads sought to address issues of public importance from a religious viewpoint,” the lawsuit stated.

According to the WMATA’s “Guidelines Governing Commercial Advertising,” advertisements that “promote or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief” or “intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions” are prohibited.

The lawsuit accused the WMATA’s policies of violating the First Amendment in several ways.

“It is unconstitutionally vague, announces an unworkable standard that grants unfettered discretion to the decisionmakers, and, consequently, unlawfully discriminates against WallBuilders’ religious viewpoint,” the complaint read. It further notes examples of ads addressing controversial issues that the WMATA has accepted.

First Liberty senior counsel Jeremy Dys stated, “Rejecting a faith-based advertising banner by labeling it an ‘issue ad,’ while accepting other ads such as those promoting a ‘Social Justice School,’ ‘Earth Day,’ and the highly controversial idea of terms limits for Supreme Court justices, is clearly hypocritical, discriminatory, and illegal.”

Arthur Spitzer, senior counsel at D.C.’s ACLU, said in a statement, “The case against WMATA is a critical reminder of what’s at stake when government entities exercise selective censorship. The First Amendment doesn’t play favorites; it ensures that all voices, regardless of their message, have the right to be heard.”

“ACLU defends these suits, regardless of whether it agrees with the underlying message because it believes in the speaker’s right to express it. The government cannot arbitrarily decide which voices to silence in public forums,” Spitzer added.

The WMATA did not respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway is a staff writer for Blaze News.
@candace_phx →