A federal court denied a request Friday by the Archdiocese of Washington to allow it to put Christmas ads on Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority buses.
The archdiocese had filed a federal lawsuit against Metro after the transit agency refused to sell space on buses for Christmas fundraising ads, citing its ban on "issue-oriented advertising."
The suit argued that Metro is "hostile to religion" and violated the Archdiocese's right to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion by rejecting the ad. However, a federal judge rejected that argument and said the transit agency could ban ads featuring a religious theme.
"We are disappointed that the federal court denied our emergency request for an injunction to run our 'Find the Perfect Gift' Advent ad campaign," said Ed McFadden, secretary of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington. "While this preliminary ruling that there should be no room made for us on WMATA buses is disappointing, we will continue in the coming days to pursue and defend our right to share the important message of Christmas in the public square."
The ad design showed shepherds and sheep, as in a classic Nativity scene, with the words "Find the Perfect Gift."
Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said rejecting the ad was in line with the agency's policies.
"In 2015, WMATA changed its advertising policy to prohibit issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising," she said in a statement. "The ad in question was declined, because it is prohibited by WMATA's current advertising guidelines."
Metro decided to bar all political and religious advertising after an activist group submitted a cartoon depiction of the Prophet Muhammad to run as an ad at Metrorail stations and on buses.