Transit authority sued for censoring views expressed in ads

 December 16, 2023

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A transit organization's decision to censor ads based on their intent "to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying public opinions" and "religion," has prompted a federal First Amendment lawsuit.

First Liberty Institute explains it is working on a case challenging the actions of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's advertising censorship – as violations of the First Amendment.

"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," explained Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU-DC, which is working with First Liberty.

"The government cannot arbitrarily decide which voices to silence in public forums."

First Liberty explained, "The lawsuit was filed on behalf of WallBuilder Presentations ('WallBuilders'), an organization advocating for Americans to understand their history and the important role religion played in the founding of our nation, which sought to advertise on the side of WMATA Metro buses."

The organization said the transit company's officials "rejected the ads because they violated its advertising guidelines."

The lawsuit charges that the restrictions on speech in ads violate the First Amendment, which bans government agencies from picking and choosing which private speech is allowed, based on viewpoint.

The lawsuit points out that the transit authority recently had allowed ads demanding Supreme Court term limits and transparency in hospital prices. It also took ads with religious content such as for "The Book of Mormon" musical.

The case charges that such censorship programs always lead to discrimination based on viewpoints, and result in arbitrary and unreasonable harm to some.

"The First Amendment grants all Americans the right to express their point of view, religious or secular," said First Liberty's Jeremy Dys.

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