President Trump has been very vocal about his intent to reinstate Merry Christmas as the officially trademarked phrase of America’s holiday season. He’s scripted it into speeches, bragged about it during interviews, and thrown it out as red meat in rallies.
Apparently, the Metro authority in his home city of Washington, D.C. hasn’t gotten the memo as they have rejected what may be the most benign religious ad ever designed. The Catholic Church has a Christmas ad campaign that promotes what they call “spiritual giving” instead of focusing on the trappings of the holiday.
They created a hashtag (#PerfectGift), and put it, along with the slogan “Find the Perfect Gift” and website on a very plain background of stars and three shepherds. That’s it. No manger, no baby Jesus, no cross, no wise men, just some dudes with a couple sheep. But that was a bit too Christian for the folks at the Washington Metro who suggested that the ad “depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion.”
“To borrow from a favorite Christmas story, under WMATA’s guidelines, if the ads are about packages, boxes or bags – if Christmas comes from a store – then it seems WMATA approves. But if Christmas means a little bit more, WMATA plays Grinch.”
Frankly, I’ve always favored letting people say whatever they want to say, including allowing businesses promote whatever slogan they want to promote. Of course I also think it is beyond silly to be offended by someone wishing you a Merry Christmas or being scared that hanging up a sign that says Merry Christmas is provocative or inappropriate.
This however is slightly different in that it is government censoring the message. The Archdiocese is not taking that laying down either, claiming that their First Amendment rights are being attacked:
WMATA’s rejection of the Archdiocese’s speech amounts to a violation of the First Amendment, plain and simple. We are bringing this complaint to vindicate the basic principle that the government may not allow a wide variety of speech in a forum and then turn around and deny the Archdiocese access because of the religious nature of its speech,” said Paul Clement of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, who is serving as counsel to the Archdiocese in this case.
Common sense would certainly indicate that they’ve got a case. A private church encouraging people to go to mass and to give to the needy isn’t exactly Congressional establishment of religion. But common sense no longer reigns these days, which means two things are likely to happen:
- A Presidential tweetstorm addressing this slight.
- The D.C. Metro ignoring the tweetstorm and doing what they want to do, which in this case involves censoring a completely harmless ad.