When Jesus and God are "Problematic"


Message of Hope
(Photo : Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation)
Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation Message of Hope

The Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation exists to provide "the financial support necessary for delivering exceptional health care, in state-of-the-art facilities, to all children in need of care" at St. Louis' SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. The hospital, as all hospitals do, decorates for Christmas. In 2011, however, they added a new aspect to their tree. Knowing that being in the hospital is bad enough for a child any time of the year, but being in the hospital during Christmastime is even worse, they redubbed the tree, which is almost tall enough to reach the ceiling and decorated in an array of bright colors, the Tree of Hope. Supporters were invited to write messages of hope to the young patients or their parents. Those messages were placed in a beautiful chest sitting at the foot of the tree and each day, children and parents were invited to get a new and hope-filled note from the chest.


The program was so successful that it became an annual part of Christmas at SSM Cardinal Glennon. This year, in order to expand the reach of the Tree of Hope and bring messages in from all over the country, the Missouri Valley Conference, an athletic organization that has partnered with the foundation over the years, tried to help by bringing a commercial from the Foundation to ESPNU’s national airwaves during the University of Northern Iowa vs. Virginia Commonwealth University basketball game (which will be played tomorrow). The ad encourages the public to write holiday messages for sick children, which was no problem for the sports network giant. However, the phrases "birth of Jesus" and "God's healing message" brought about a big, fat 'No!" from ESPN. The foundation was told that the ad would not run because it failed to meet "commercial advocacy standards." Those standards apparently have God and Jesus on a no-fly list.

Dan Buck, vice-president of Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation, said that they were told that to the only way it could run was if they edited out "Jesus" and "God." He said, "They directly said the words in their quote 'Jesus and God are problematic.'" ESPN agreed to accept a "replacement commercial" that was filmed earlier this year. The replacement is just a general ad that isn't about the Christmas program and doesn't mention God or Jesus.

ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz would not go into detail about the religious contents associated with the original commercial with TheBlaze or Bill O'Reilly (who covered the whole thing on his show Wednesday night). The network's 2013 Advertising Standards & Guidelines (All Media) has a section titled: Advocacy/Issue Oriented Advertising that reads, "ESPN does not accept advertising that consists of, in whole or in part, political or religious advocacy, or issue-oriented advertising." These are the "standards" that The Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation apparently failed to meet.

Had the foundation been advertising beer and wine (as long as it's not more than 24% alcohol by volume), condoms, erectile dysfunction treatments, birth control devices or methods, or remedies for sexually transmitted diseases (as long as they're presented in "good taste"), distilled liquor or casinos, they would have been good to go but "God's healing message?" Not so much.

The public outcry following the Bill O'Reilly piece was as fierce as it was swift. ESPN took a step back to regroup and on Thursday, Josh Krulewitz told TheBlaze, "We have again reviewed the ads submitted for the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and have concluded that we will accept the original requested commercial. It will run in Saturday’s VCU at Northern Iowa basketball game on ESPNU. This decision is consistent with our practice of individual review of all ads under our commercial advocacy standards."

If you want to send a message of hope to a sick child or worried parent at Cardinal Glennon for Christmas, you don't have to wait until Saturday. It's as easy as filling out a form on their website and can be done any time.

Tags : Ban on Christmas

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