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Faith-based group believes DC Metro rejected ads because of their beliefs: 'Did not make any sense'

WallBuilders' President Tim Barton told Fox News Digital he felt his group was "targeted" for their conservative, Christian beliefs, after the D.C. Metro rejected their ads.

A Christian group is fighting back after its requests to advertise on Metro buses was denied by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

First Liberty and the ACLU filed a legal complaint on behalf of WallBuilders, a faith-based educational nonprofit, which seeks to educate the public on America's "forgotten history and heroes" with an emphasis on the Founders' religious and moral views.

The Christian organization sought to put up banners of George Washington and other American historical figures on the sides of D.C.-area Metro buses but were denied because they allegedly violated advertising restrictions. 

One ad that was rejected displayed an iconic depiction of George Washington kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge with the text, "Christian?" in large font and a link to the WallBuilders website inviting viewers to "find out about the faith of our founders." 

Tim Barton, President of WallBuilders, told Fox News Digital they gave the WMATA multiple versions of their proposed ads but none were accepted, which "did not make any sense."


"We certainly got the impression that it was something more specific with our group. The fact that we were willing to take off any kind of language on the ad and just have a picture of Founding Fathers with a QR code on our website. And they still said that that was unacceptable. That's when it did not make any sense to us and felt like we were certainly being targeted as opposed to maybe just some kind of clerical oversight," Barton explained.

WMATA, a government entity, cited rules prohibiting advertisements "intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions," and those that "promote or oppose any religion."

First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys said that because WMATA rejected proposed versions that only displayed the image of Washington and the URL of the WallBuilders website, they appeared to have a problem with the group's website. However, WMATA refused to provide guidance about what would be considered an acceptable ad, he claimed.

"It's pretty creepy, frankly, that WMATA is reviewing people's websites and determining whether or not, based upon what they see there, that they're going to allow them to advertise," Dys told Fox News Digital. Removing the website URL would be ridiculous, he argued, because it would "completely negate the whole purpose of an ad."

First Liberty argues the current guidelines are overly broad and suppress speech, violating the First Amendment.

The lawsuit also argues the guidelines have been unevenly applied. WMATA appeared to accept religious and anti-religious ads in the past and ads for groups with divisive messages, such as for a Social Justice School and emergency contraception.

"So it's remarkably hypocritical for Metro to say, 'Well, yes, we're going to allow term limit advertising, Plan B advertising. We're going to allow alcohol advertising and gambling advertising. But when you put a picture of George Washington kneeling in prayer up on the bus, that's a bridge too far,'" he remarked.

"It's also incredibly ironic given the fact that this is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority. I think they should change their name now, too," Dys quipped.


WMATA did not respond to requests for comment.

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