Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., ‘Condemns’ Catholics for a Free Choice Ad Campaign Criticizing Bishops’ Stance on Condom Use
The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has "condemned as 'false and misleading'" an international ad campaign criticizing Catholic bishops' stance on condom use and has issued an "advocacy alert" urging parishioners to contact public transportation officials and politicians in regard to the ads, the Washington Post reports (Broadway, Washington Post, 1/3). The ad campaign, sponsored by Catholics for a Free Choice, was launched in Washington in late November and features billboards and ads in subway cars and bus shelters with the slogan "Banning Condoms Kills." The campaign, which "accus[es]" Catholic bishops of aiding the spread of HIV by banning condoms, will also be launched in other U.S. cities and in countries around the world with either large Catholic populations or high rates of HIV/AIDS infection (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/2). The ad campaign contains "false information," archdiocese spokesperson Susan Gibbs said, adding that the ads "accuse bishops of killing people when in fact the bishops advocate the only lifestyle to protect against HIV/AIDS: a lifestyle of abstinence outside a monogamous marriage." She added that while Catholic bishops oppose condom use, they "do not have the authority to 'ban' condoms." The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the city's public transportation system, has received "about 25 e-mails or phone calls from people objecting to these ads," Metro spokesperson Ray Feldmann said. Though the archdiocese argues that Metro should have refused to carry the ads because they "contain false information," Feldman said that after reviewing the ads, Metro officials found "nothing obscene, pornographic, lewd or offensive" to prevent them from running the campaign. Metro officials control only advertisements on buses and trains and in Metrorail stations. The U.S. Department of Transportation, which controls the advertising in Washington, D.C.-area bus shelters, will not approve any advertising that is "blatantly untruthful or false," Alex Eckmann, office of mass transit administrator, said, but he added that the ads submitted by Catholics for a Free Choice "fell within the department's guidelines" (Washington Post, 1/3). The Catholics for a Free Choice ads can be viewed online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.