A pastor from Colorado Springs who has been advertising on public transit benches with Jesus-related campaigns for the past three years, fears he will no longer be allowed to refer to Jesus in the ads if the city, which is now reviewing its policy, determines that it violates the Constitution.
The city of Colorado Springs said Monday it is reviewing the advertising policies of Mountain Metro Transit after Pastor Lawson Perdue of the Charis Christian Center in west Colorado Springs was told last week his ads on bus benches would be barred if they refer to "Jesus," according to The Gazette.
"The city of Colorado Springs is carefully reviewing the advertising policies of Mountain Metro Transit in light of the advertising by Pastor Lawson Perdue of the Charis Christian Center. The city takes First Amendment issues very seriously, and strives to fully comply with Constitutional Law," the city's statement said. "This commitment requires that advertisements and policies are regularly reviewed for content and legality. Mountain Metro Transit recognizes that it acted hastily in asking Pastor Perdue to change his messaging. The city attorney's office is working diligently to ensure that the advertising policies comply with the law. During this review, no action will be taken and Mountain Metro Transit will continue Pastor Perdue's advertisement as they currently appear."
Perdue's contract with Mountain Metro Transit expires July 10, and he was told the denial was due to one person's complaint about the advertisements. Perdue's church has Jesus-related ads on 20 benches with the "Jesus is Lord" campaign on them, and would like to continue the campaign.
However, Mountain Metro Mobility says if they allow the pastor's messages, then they would also have to allow hate speech. "I asked them why we could no longer use the name of Jesus. They said it's because, 'If you use the name of Jesus, we must allow hate messaging,'" Perdue said, according to local news station KKTV.
City attorneys are looking at the First Amendment's Establishment Clause to determine the legality of the Jesus ads. "The Establishment Clause prohibits the endorsement of a specific religion or its tenets. Transit is working with the Office of the City Attorney concerning the matter and transit's advertising policy going forward," the Transit Division said.
"We believe that Jesus is a very positive message of faith, and we want to share that around our community," KRDO quoted Perdue as saying. "There's a lot of messages in the city that I'm opposed to personally, but I don't complain, because this is the United States of America."
Perdue has said he will take the city to court, if needed.