In its complaint, the archdiocese says that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority rejected an ad showing a group of shepherds looking up to the stars, along with the words "Find the flawless gift", a URL and the hashtag #FindThePerfectGift.
"The archdiocese has in previous years advertised on WMATA's public buses".
The ads were rejected by Metro for being religious in nature.
The church planned to roll out a series of ads on the sides of buses and on bus kiosks promoting Christmas mass schedules and ways to help the needy during the holiday season.
A Catholic advertisement campaign has been rejected by the Washington Metro as it promotes "spiritual giving" and not presents.
"Jesus is the flawless gift", the information on the website says. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Speaking to Newsweek, WMATA spokeswoman Sherri Ly said that the ad might have been accepted before 2015, when the transport authority chose to prohibit all "issue-orientated advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising". "Yet citing its guidelines, WMATA's legal counsel said the ad 'depicts a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion, '" said Ed McFadden, the secretary for communications for the Archdiocese of Washington in a written statement. They were joined in the suit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, by a provider of abortions and by conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, all of whom also had ads rejected by the transit agency.
The Archdiocese's Director of Media Relations Chieko Noguchi also told Newsweek that after carefully studying the Metro's guidelines and specifically, the Church opted to use the ad in question to fit the specific rules. The complaint highlights three parts of the agency's advertising policy, but it does not address the rule banning religious-themed ads. The Archdiocese did not propose an ad to be featured by WMATA again until the 2017 Christmas ad.
By refusing to run the ads, the church says their Constitutional rights to free speech and freedom to practice religion are being infringed.
"Someone [is] sitting there at transit like Caesar.", Turley said.