By KATE JOHNSON
Canadian ice cream chain “Sweet Jesus” is being boycotted by Christians as it tries to expand across the United States. Some Christians claim the chain is blasphemous, uses the Lord’s name in vain and mocks the Christian faith.
A petition has been made on Change.org to urge the Toronto-based company’s founder Andrew Richmond to change the name of the ice cream chain. It has more than 7,600 signatures.
“We, as Christians, are deeply offended by the name of a new ice cream chain of stores calling themselves ‘Sweet Jesus.’ This is a mockery of taking the Lord’s name in vain and also highly offensive to Christians,” reads the petition.
The ice cream chain uses upside down crosses on the labels of the ice cream cups and various ads for the company use well-known Christian symbols and language.
“One ad on the company’s website shows a Nativity scene, but instead of Baby Jesus, there’s an ice cream cone,” reads the online petition. “Many of their ads are replete with cherished Christian and Catholic symbols that are used to mock faith, including a rosary, a crucifix with a corpus, and angels.”
One ad for the ice cream company reads: “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain, but God [expletive] that’s delicious.”
The ice cream company has 19 locations in Canada. The company has a store at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport and is planning to open in other U.S. locations, such as the Mall of America in Minnesota, according to LifeSiteNews.
In covering the controversy, the Christian Post wrote an article condemning the ice cream chain and advocating for the cause of the petitioners. Their article included multiple quotes from various petitions calling for a name change.
“If anything could qualify as ‘hate speech,’ this is it! . . . Even if this were some innocent faux-pas, it would still be unacceptable! However, this is anything but a mere mistake. Both in their promotional materials and menu selection, it is plain to see that [owners] Richmond and Todai have every intention of mocking Christ and Christianity,” reads another petition on the Canadian site CitizenGo.
The Christian Post does not give equal coverage to both sides of the story. LifeSiteNews, another Christian news outlet, even launched its own petition condemning the company and demanding a name change. The end of the article includes contact information for the Sweet Jesus company founders.
“Faithful Christians follow the Second Commandment about not taking the name of God in vain. This means that God’s name should be used respectfully, as in prayer or in blessing. Anything else is misusing his name. Christians believe that Jesus is God and his name is holy. St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians put it this way: ‘At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow,’” wrote Dorothy Cummings McLean and Pete Baklinski for LifeSiteNews.
“I wonder what might have happened had the company been named ‘Sweet Muhammad’ and employed the same kind of plays on Islamic religious symbols as it does on Christian ones. Mohammed Mud Pie anyone? It would never have been tolerated.”
Secular news outlets have given much more equal coverage of the story. The Toronto Star provided mainly facts in their article about who was opposing the ice cream chain and why.
“There are few things that feel more care-free than enjoying an ice cream cone, and Toronto-based chain Sweet Jesus servers up gigantic, Instagram-worthy soft serve cones – or blasphemy, depending on who you ask,” wrote Jenna Moon for the Toronto Star.
Along with several fiery quotes from petitioners against the company, the Toronto Star article also included the disclaimer issued on the Sweet Jesus’ company website.
“Our name was created from the popular phrase that people use as an expression of enjoyment, surprise or disbelief. Our aim is not to offer commentary on anyone’s religion or belief systems, our own organization is made up of amazing people that represent a wide range of cultural and religious beliefs.”
CBC News, another Canadian news organization, wrote a short Web article that included many of the main quotes from the online petitions that the other stories have used.
Like the Toronto Star, CBC gave a very factual and much more equal account of the controversy surrounding the company name and advertisements. CBC reached out to Richmond for a statement.
“We are conscious of the fact that, to some, our name can be off-putting,” Richmond told CBC. “That fact is something we struggle with, because we sincerely do not wish to give offense or show disrespect in any way toward anyone’s personal beliefs.”
“After a lot of thought, we have decided that we will not make a change. Sweet Jesus is an honest reflection of our experiences and that of our customers and how they react when they try our product. In our experience, the majority of people understand that we’re not trying to make a statement about religion.”
The Huffington Post article about the petitions against Sweet Jesus focused on the variety of reasons the company was facing backlash. They included quotations from many online petitioners, religious groups and YouTubers that spoke out against the company.
“The first S in the word Jesus is a lightning strike, reminiscent of the Nazi style used by the SS, and the T in ‘SWEET’ is often shown as an inverted Cross on the company’s various products . . . We cannot remain silent while Our Lord is blasphemed,” wrote the Christian site Return To Order.
The Huffington Post also mentioned some non-religious reasons the company is facing condemnation and controversy.
“Others took issue with one of Sweet Jesus’ advertisements, because the child posing with ice cream running down her face looks similar to Jonbenét Ramsey, a child beauty pageant contestant who was murdered at age 6,” wrote Emma Paling for the Huffington Post.