Madonna bus ad assailed by Catholics

Sept. 27, 1993
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NEW YORK -- A Roman Catholic rights organization has asked Mayor David Dinkins to remove bus and phone booth ads that show a picture of pop singer Madonna alongside one of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic Leage for Religious and Civil Rights, said Monday that he fired off two complaints to Dinkins late last week but has not received a reply.

He said he also has complained to the Metropolitan Tranportation Authority, which operates city buses.

'If we tried to put a picure of our blessed mother and Jesus on the side of a bus, it would be rejected because it would be endorsing religion, but if it is used with Madonna in a form of blasphemy, it is acceptable,' he said.

'Suddenly, it becomes freedom of speech. The double standard is an outrage!'

The ad was placed with the MTA by VH1, a sister network of cable video music channel MTV. On the left side is a picture of Madonna and on the right Raphael's familiar 'Madonna and Child.'

In between the two images is a caption reading, 'The difference between you and your parents.'

'We tried to find out who in the MTA approved the Madonna poster,' Donohoe said. 'They would not tell us. But there's a lot of anti- Catholicism out there.'

Donohoe said he did not blame VH1.

'You don't expect them to behave responsibly but you do expect the MTA to use better judgment,' he said. 'When I called them, they told me they don't make value judgments, but that's not true. They don't, for instance, carry tobacco ads.'

The Catholic League was established about 20 years ago as a watchdog group and is the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization, although it has no formal relationship to the Roman Catholic Church. It is sometimes likened to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish watchdog group.

'The MTA would never have allowed Madonna to uses buses to blaspheme Jewish beliefs, blacks or gays,' Donohue charged. 'Catholics are not portrayed with the same respect and dignity of other groups.'

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