A three judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court has upheld the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s rejection of a Christmas ad by the Catholic Church.
In a decision released Tuesday, the panel ruled against the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, which had sought to include their “Find the Perfect Gift” ad campaign.
While current United States Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was part of the panel, according to the decision’s text he did not participate in the panel opinion.
Judge Judith Rogers authored the court opinion, concluding that WMATA was not unlawfully suppressing the Archdiocese’s viewpoints with its ban on religious ads, because banning all religious ads in a “non-public forum,” regardless of sect, doesn’t violate religious freedom.
The ruling labeled metro’s ad space a “non-public forum,” which meant that the government could restrict what advertising it allowed, including religious and political content.
Not allowing the limitation of ads to commercial content would “upend decades of settled doctrine permitting governments to run transit companies without establishing forums for debate on the controversial issues of the ages and of the day,” Rogers wrote, “including not only the subject of religion but also politics and advocacy issues.”
Rogers also concluded that the archdiocese’s argument would open the gates to allow for all kinds of advertising content that most people may find objectionable.
“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.”
In a concurring opinion, Judge Robert Wilkins wrote that the WMATA ban “does not take sides” and “restricts all speech on the topic equally, without discriminating within the defined category.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski