Putting faith-based ads on public buses turns into holy war

 May 27, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

An injunction has been issued by a federal judge in a fight over advertisements that were censored by the transit bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.

It will allow the ads, referencing political or religious issues, to run while the court fight continues.

According to an announcement by the First Liberty legal organization, the order came in the case WallBuilders v. WMATA, a case dating to last year that challenges WMATA ad restrictions as violations of the First Amendment.

"The First Amendment grants all Americans the right to express their point of view, religious or secular," said First Liberty Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys. "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 hypocritical, discriminatory, and illegal. We are grateful that the court recognized that WMATA unconstitutionally rejected WallBuilders ads and look forward to continuing to fight for complete victory."

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has a reputation for censoring speech in ads on its vehicles. This is not the first legal case that has erupted because of its censorship.

The First Liberty report revealed, "WallBuilders is a Texas-based non-profit organization that seeks to educate the public about the role that the Founders’ Christian faith played in the creation of the nation and the drafting of the Constitution. It sought to place its advertisements on the side of WMATA Metro buses. WMATA rejected the ads because they violated its advertising guidelines, which prohibit advertising 'intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying public opinions.'"

The legal fight focuses on the guidelines WMATA uses to censor speech.

The new court ruling found that Guideline 9, banning "[a]dvertisements intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions," is "not a reasonable restriction on speech." The order called those rules "vague" and pointed out they fail to give "objective, workable standards" that could be reasonably applied, a requirement under the First Amendment.

First Liberty confirmed this case, in which the ACLU also is participating, is the second free speech lawsuit filed by the ACLU challenging WMATA's advertising guidelines.

Back in 2017, its case revealed how WMATA discriminates against a variety of viewpoints.

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