The American Civil Liberties Union joined with the conservative legal group First Liberty Institute on Monday to challenge the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s restrictions on advertising as First Amendment violations.

The two groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of WallBuilder Presentations, an organization that raises awareness about the “moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built,” after WMATA said the ads it wanted to display on buses violated its advertising guidelines.


WMATA restricts ads “intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying public opinions,” along with those that “promote or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief.”

“Though WMATA never identified the specific issue of public controversy that it believed the proposed advertisements addressed, it is apparent that WallBuilders was prohibited from advertising because its proposed ads sought to address issues of public importance from a religious viewpoint,” the complaint alleges.

The ads display depictions of Founding Fathers overlayed with the word “Christian?” and invite viewers to learn about the “faith of our founders” on the Wallbuilders website, according to the lawsuit.

“The case against WMATA is a critical reminder of what’s at stake when government entities exercise selective censorship,” Arthur Spitzer, senior counsel at ACLU-D.C., said in a statement. “The First Amendment doesn’t play favorites; it ensures that all voices, regardless of their message, have the right to be heard.”

The lawsuit includes multiple photos of ads WMATA did find permissible, though they appear to violate its guidelines. These include ads for “The Book of Mormon” musical, which “sharply lampoons” the religious practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, along with an ad by the Brennan Center for Justice demanding term limits for Supreme Court justices, a “source of substantial public debate,” according to the lawsuit.

“ACLU defends these suits, regardless of whether it agrees with the underlying message because it believes in the speaker’s right to express it,” Spitzer continued. “The government cannot arbitrarily decide which voices to silence in public forums.”

Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for First Liberty, said in a statement that the First Amendment “grants all Americans the right to express their point of view, religious or secular.”

“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 clearly hypocritical, discriminatory, and illegal,” Dys said.

WMATA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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