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Churches spar with media over advertising

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About these ads

The magazine refused a request for comment. Mr. Lockhart says Rolling Stone told Zondervan this month that the ad wasn't appropriate and that it didn't take ads for religious materials.

A recent Harris poll showed "that 59 percent of that age group believe the Bible is relevant to their lives," Lockhart adds. "That demonstrates that there's a misperception about how important a role the Bible plays." Zondervan ads will run in the satirical magazine The Onion; in Modern Bride; and on websites of MTV, VH1, and AOL.

Why churches want to advertise

In recent years, some mainline Protestant churches, which have seen declining attendance compared with their Evangelical cousins, have launched advertising campaigns to try to raise their visibility and identity.

The United Church of Christ last month rolled out a $28 million campaign to run through 2007, its 50th anniversary year. The first commercial was "geared to folks with no church home," says Barb Powell, UCC spokeswoman. "Focus groups told us ... that people felt alienated and rejected from organized religion." The 30-second ad emphasizes UCC inclusiveness: "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."

But its depiction of a bouncer turning several people away from a church, including ethnically diverse individuals and two men holding hands, rubbed some the wrong way. NBC rejected it as "too controversial," and CBS said it "touches on one side of a current controversial issue ... the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman." The ad also was not acceptable "because it proselytizes."

ABC did not consider the ad because it has a longstanding policy not to accept any religious advertising.

The ad ran on several cable

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