Christian bookstore claims newspaper rejected its ad over this 'offensive' word

Posted August 17

A Christian bookstore in Knoxville, Tennessee, is claiming a local newspaper initially declined to run its ad due to the store's inclusion of an "offensive" word.

When Lois McGinnis, owner of Cedar Springs Christian Store, called the Knoxville News Sentinel to ask about why the ad hadn't run, she said that she was told that the word "Christian" had caused the delay, according to WVLT-TV.

"I said, 'Well, my goodness, what in the world was offensive in that ad?'" McGinnis told the outlet. "And (the representative) said, the word 'Christian.'"

The bookstore owner was apparently shocked, telling media outlets that she felt the rejection of her classified ad "was just a slap in the face." Others apparently agreed.

In fact, it didn't take long for controversy to ignite on social media, with Cedar Springs Christian Stores posting a message to Facebook explaining what purportedly unfolded.

"I am taking a survey. DO YOU FIND THE WORD 'CHRISTIAN' OFFENSIVE? Our Clinton Hwy store is closing so we tried to put an ad in the classified section of the Knoxville News Sentinel for fixtures," reads a message posted on the store's Facebook page July 28. "They refused the ad because of the word 'Christian' (in our name) We were told that word is offensive to readers so our ad got bumped. Seriously? Please give us your opinion."

And opinions quickly came, with many people decrying the newspaper's purported rejection. One man wrote, "The word Christian or the word God should not be offensive to anyone." Another woman added, "Shame on them! I will no longer buy Knoxville News Sentinel paper."

The reaction was so fierce that Patrick Birmingham, publisher of the Knoxville News Sentinel, also jumped on the Facebook thread to proclaim that the mixup was rooted in a technology issue — and not a rejection of the word "Christian."

"As the President and Publisher of the News Sentinel, I am stating for the record that this was a system issue where the ad got temporarily put in a hold cue in our classified advertising front-end system," he wrote in a July 29 post. The ad will be in tomorrow's paper and we are running it extra days because it did not start on the day originally ordered."

Birmingham continued, "The News Sentinel does not have a bias against Christianity or any other religion."

That same day, the newspaper also issued a public apology on its Facebook page, again citing a technology issue as the reason for the classified ad delay.

"We apologize for any misunderstanding about the News Sentinel stance on Christianity," the statement read. "We had a system failure, which resulted in a classified ad for Cedar Springs Christian Stores getting hung up in our front end system. We corrected the technology issue in our system and the ad is now running for an extended period at no extra charge."

The statement went on to say that the newspaper has had a business relationship with Cedar Springs Christian Stores and that many ads have run in the past for the Christian bookstore.

That response also sparked another message on the Cedar Springs Facebook page, with the bookstore thanking supporters and noting that it has "enjoyed a working relationship with the Knoxville News Sentinel."

The bookstore owners also expressed gratitude that the ad is now running.

"We are grateful that they are now printing our ad and hope that the awareness brought to this issue will prevent mistakes like this going forward," the statement read.

Not everyone has bought into the newspaper's explanation, though, with some claiming that anti-Christian bias was at play in the purported rejection.

When asked by The Christian Post on Monday if he believes that the move was rooted in such bias, Cedar Springs Christian Stores owner Curtis McGinnis said, "I have no reason to believe that. All I know is what they told us what the reason was."

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