Monday 22nd January 2018

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‘Tis The Season For “Bah, Humbug”

December 26, 2017 Frontpage No Comments


Well, it’s Christmas time again, it rolls around every year or so (I remember we had one last year) and every time it does it brings with it controversy and division. “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:51).
If you’ve been following the political wars over Christmas in recent years you know, the Lord was right about bringing division, even more so now that political correctness has taken root in the body politic.
The latest outrage involves a bus ad, or, more properly, a proposed ad designed by the Archdiocese of Washington, which was to have run on the sides and backs of buses of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Transit Authority. The ad depicted white silhouettes of a few shepherds and sheep standing on a hill against a black background. The caption read, “Find the Perfect Gift,” and was accompanied by the web address,, which contained links to Mass times, charitable service opportunities, and information about Christmas traditions and reflections on the Advent and Christmas seasons.
According to the archdiocese, “Bus advertising offers a unique and powerful format for the ‘Find the Perfect Gift’ campaign. Advertising on public buses offers high visibility with consistent daily views. Bus advertising offers a prominent way to reach both drivers and pedestrians on public sidewalks and thoroughfares throughout the metropolitan area. Moreover, public buses travel to many areas of the metropolitan region that are otherwise underserved and that other, more static advertising campaigns might miss.”
Donald Cardinal Wuerl and the D.C. Archdiocese had planned that the ad would run from the beginning of Advent through the Christmas season. The goal of the ad campaign was to encourage individuals to seek spiritual gifts during the Christmas season and to “offer members of the community public service opportunities to serve our most vulnerable neighbors in the winter months when many material needs increase and become more challenging,” said the archdiocese.
In fact, similar ads were purchased by the archdiocese through Clear Channel Outdoors which sells bus-shelter advertising, as it has for over 20 years through a contract with the District of Columbia.
But, as in all of these stories, the Christmas Grinch appeared in the form of the transit authority that refused to sell the bus advertising to the archdiocese. Why? Well, according to the transportation authority, the Perfect Gift ads were deemed “issue-oriented advertising,” which is not allowed on metro buses.
In May of 2015 the metro authority’s board adopted a temporary rule banning such advertising as well as all political advocacy and religious advertising. The following November, the board, fearing that issue-oriented ads might provoke community discord, discriminatory statements, and threats to safety by those opposed to the message contained in such ads, made the rule permanent. The board’s guidelines specifically banned any advertisements “that promote or oppose any religion, religious practice, or belief.”
So, apparently the transit board, concerned that ads encouraging service to “vulnerable neighbors” during the winter months might lead to violence, refused to sell to the archdiocese and took up the Ebenezer Scrooge banner.
Comes now Cardinal Wuerl with the archdiocese, filing suit in the D.C. district court asking that the court enjoin the transit authority from enforcing its rule against the ads.
The archdiocese claimed the rule violates its First Amendment freedom of speech in that the rule is a content — and viewpoint — based restriction on message; that it violates the Church’s free exercise of religion in that the prohibition restricting religious advertisements is not tailored to advance any compelling governmental interest; that it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in that it “substantially” burdens its right to exercise its religious freedom to exercise its belief; that it violates the archdiocese’s right of equal protection in that there is no rational basis for the rule; and finally that it violates the right of due process by depriving the archdiocese of its liberty interest without due process.
The case was assigned to Federal District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee who ruled in 2013 that Obamacare regulations required that the archdiocese must provide birth control and abortifacients for its employees. She is also currently assigned to hear Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates whom she has put under house arrest.
She scheduled a hearing on the archdiocese’s motion for a temporary injunction for December 5. By all accounts the hearing did not go well for the archdiocese. According to press reports, Judge Jackson peppered the archdiocesan attorney with questions as to why the transit authority’s rule limiting speech was unreasonable.
Michael Williams, the attorney representing the archdiocese, answered that the transit authority allowed Christmas-themed ads that were commercial in nature but not the Church’s religious view of the holiday. In fact, the petition for the injunction averred that a representative of the vendor that contracts with the transit board for ad sales, Jack Costello, had suggested that if the archdiocese would modify its ad, the transit authority might reconsider.
“Costello had mentioned that if the advertisement had a commercial purpose, such as selling goods or services, then the advertisement would be more likely to comply with [the board’s] guidelines,” the petition read, which led Ed McFadden, secretary of communications for the archdiocese, to say, “[I]f the ads are about packages, boxes or bags…if Christmas comes from a store…then it seems [the transit authority] approves.”
The transit attorneys argued that the restriction on advertising was lawful. The policy was adopted in response to concerns about safety. “[A] proposed ad featuring a cartoon depiction of the Prophet Mohammad raised concerns because of violent reaction to such depictions in the past,” it said in its reply. It also claimed that vandalism of some ads caused an administrative burden for the transit authority which went into the decision to prohibit religious ads.
“Here, [the transit board] has simply prohibited advertisements related to the subject of the religious half of Christmas, but not the secular half,” the Church’s petition said, adding that the transit board accepts advertisements promoting yoga and from the Salvation Army.
The judge said she expected to make a decision within the next few days, which she did: Shortly before The Wanderer went to press this week, the judge denied the archdiocese’s request that WMATA be required to post its ad promoting its annual “Find the Perfect Gift” initiative. The archdiocese has appealed that denial.
Now if that isn’t enough to get you into the Christmas spirit, consider this: You can now purchase a Hillary Clinton Christmas tree topper. Yes, the high priestess of secularism, dressed in a white pantsuit with wings protruding from her back can be yours to enjoy for only $140.
Sorry if that takes you out of the holiday mood. But maybe this will get you back into the Christmas spirit: She lost the election!
Merry Christmas (the guy who beat her said we can say that again). May our infant Savior and His family bless and protect you and your family.
Now, go out and make Christmas great again.

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