REJECTING ‘THE PERFECT GIFT’
December 14, 2017
Pray for the advancement of free speech rights in general and for a judgment in favor of the Archdiocese of Washington in this case involving Metrobus Christmas ads.
. . . your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. (Luke 2:30-32)
The rate at which Christmas is being leached of spiritual meaning and replaced with frenzied online shopping isn’t increasing fast enough for some.
In Washington D.C., the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) rejected a Metrobus advertisement from the Archdiocese of Washington that encouraged people to “Find the Perfect Gift,” and showed the silhouettes of three shepherds with their sheep — on account of the ad “promoting religion.” The imagery of the ad is not Christian on its face, nor even shows the baby Jesus, and the context would escape anyone unfamiliar with a relatively minor detail of the birth-story — that of poor and lonely shepherds surprised on a cold night by a sudden, unexpected happiness. If you go to the advertised website, you’ll find ways to bring happiness this Christmas to the needy and desolate, with charitable outreach to the poor and marginalized, and the most important gift — the joy and community of a welcoming and inclusive Christmas mass.
The archdiocese has, in turn, filed a complaint in federal court alleging a violation of its First Amendment rights of speech and exercise of religion by the government transit agency. By taking ads from retailers but not from the archdiocese, the government is discriminating in favor of ads for costly material goods, and against ads for free spiritual goods. Ed McFadden, communications secretary for the archdiocese said, ‘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.’ …
As the season gets underway, the frantic ads vying for our attention and the money in our wallets will yell at us ever more loudly from our televisions, the sides of buses and, seemingly, every other flat surface: ‘Buy and buy more things your loved ones don’t need, because that is what the ‘season’ is all about!” … (Excerpt from Grazie Pozo Christie’s article in The Washington Times entitled “Find the Perfect Gift.” – Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy adviser for the Catholic Association.)