by Jorge Gomez • 4 min read
Can you be turned away by the government for being “too Christian?” Have we reached a point in America where it’s okay for the state to put a “rejection” rubber stamp on people and viewpoints simply because they’re religious?
Even though we’re a country built on religious liberty, it seems that’s the battle we’re fighting right now.
In fact, that’s the issue at the center of a case involving our client, WallBuilders. It’s dedicated to preserving America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious and constitutional foundation.
We filed a federal lawsuit last month and are fighting in court for them right now. The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in our nation’s capital REJECTED several ads Wallbuilders submitted to display on public buses. Why? Apparently, because the ads—and the organization submitting them—were religious in nature.
Last summer, WallBuilders decided to launch an advertising campaign in D.C. It sought to put ads on the sides of Metro buses to publicize its organization. However, WMATA denied their request, suggesting the ads were “intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions.” It appears Metro authorities are playing favorites, however. They’ve accepted other ads such as those promoting a “Social Justice School” and Earth Day.
They also say their guidelines prohibit any ads “that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief.” But those guidelines are being applied inconsistently. WMATA previously allowed ads for The Catholic University of America, the Jewish Film and Music Festival, even the controversial musical, The Book of Mormon.
Check out this week’s episode of First Liberty Live! below. Hear from attorney Jeremy Dys as he breaks down this case in more detail:
What’s at stake in this legal battle? It’s much bigger than WallBuilders running an ad campaign. It’s about the government’s responsibility to treat everyone fairly. Winning this case could have an impact for all Americans—religious or not.
How vital is this case for religious liberty and other First Amendment freedoms? You may be surprised to learn that the ACLU is teaming up with First Liberty on this case. Even though we’re sometimes at odds, both organizations understand just how dangerous WMATA’s policy is to free speech.
“The case against WMATA is a critical reminder of what’s at stake when government entities exercise selective censorship,” said Senior Counsel Arthur Spitzer at ACLU-D.C. “The First Amendment doesn’t play favorites; it ensures that all voices, regardless of their message, have the right to be heard.”
“You should not be giving the government this unbridled authority to choose who can and cannot speak in public forums, or anywhere else for that matter,” WallBuilders President Tim Barton told Decision Magazine. “There’s no doubt that when you have such an arbitrary, subjective standard, that whoever’s the one choosing can choose what they like and what they don’t like, and that’s exactly what happened.”
WMATA must end its blatant discrimination. The First Amendment grants all Americans the right to express their point of view, religious or secular. Rejecting a faith-based advertising banner while accepting other ads is clearly hypocritical, discriminatory and illegal. Public transit authorities have an obligation to support the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment, rather than silence Americans through censorship.