- The Washington Times - Friday, July 29, 2016

The Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee has apologized to the Christian community after the owners of a local bookstore complained that their ad was rejected from the paper because of the word “Christian.”

Lois McGinnis, whose family owns Cedar Springs Christian Store, said she recently tried to take out an ad in the classified section of the Gannett-owned paper, Fox News reported.

“Store closing sale – Cedar Springs Christian Store – Clinton Highway location – All merchandise, fixtures, slat walls must go. Sale through August 13, phone 865.947.XXX,” the ad read.

Despite paying for the ad, Ms. McGinnis said it was nowhere to be found when it was supposed to run on Thursday. She said that when she spoke with a classified ad employee, the employee said the ad was rejected because it contained an “offensive word.”

“I asked what that offensive word was and she said the offensive word was ‘Christian,’” Ms. McGinnis recalled. “As Christians, this was a slap in the face to us.”

The Knoxville News Sentinel issued a statement on its Facebook page blaming a “system failure” for the mixup.

“We apologize for any misunderstanding about the News Sentinel stance on Christianity,” the statement said. “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. We have had a business relationship with Cedar Springs Christian Stores and we have run many ads as part of that relationship. We apologize for the error and any inconvenience this has caused.”

The paper’s president and publisher, Patrick Birmingham, added: “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 [i]n a hold cue in our classified advertising front end system. 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. The News Sentinel does not have a bias against Christianity or any other religion.”

Commenters on the post remained skeptical.

“Your paper has a long history and reputation as being biased against Christian values,” one commenter wrote. “You’ve been caught. Your employee just stated the simple truth that your company flags anything with the word ‘Christian’ in it, which put it in the hold cue. If I hadn’t already dropped my subscription because of your poor ethics and bigotry, I would definitely do it now.”

“Being fluent in IT speak, and reading twixt the lines, it’s obvious … the Sentinel does, or did, have a keyword trigger on ‘Christian’ by which they would reject ads containing the word,” another wrote. “They were called on it, now they are fixing it, while wiping egg of their face. I wonder what other keywords trigger rejection of ads? That would be fun to know.”

Cedar Springs Christian Store responded to the paper’s apology Friday afternoon in a Facebook post.

“Thank you all for your support,” the post read. “We have enjoyed a working relationship with the Knoxville News Sentinel and appreciate the work they do in our community. 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.”

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