Producers of Easter items must ensure they don’t offend Christians

Producers of Easter items must ensure they don’t offend Christians April 5, 2019

THE UK’s advertising watchdog says there’s a ‘fine line’ between humour and sacrilege and companies producing Easter goods should be aware that Christians have very thin skins.

Well, the Advertising Standards Authority didn’t actually use the phrase “thin skins” but that what it clearly implied when it warned in a press release last week:

Given the sensitivities surrounding people’s religious beliefs, marketers must take care not to cause serious or widespread offence when using religious references in their campaigns in or around Easter. While humour can sometimes help to reduce the likelihood of causing serious or widespread offence, the line when it comes to religion can often be very thin.

You should therefore tread carefully and bear in mind that, just because something might be considered funny by some, it will nevertheless be problematic if it offends a particular group.

It added:

Easter is a holiday that holds religious significance, particularly for those of the Christian faith. It is also a cultural point of reference that marketers may use to engage consumers … There is nothing in the Advertising Codes that prevents advertisers from using references to religion to promote their products and services. It is, however, important to exercise caution when doing so, particularly when it comes to respecting people’s faith and beliefs.

Providing examples of what’s OK and what isn’t, the ASA referred to a complaint it received in 2017 about a “bunny Jesus” tweet sent out by Banks Beer.

In this case the complaint that the Banksy-styled image “trivialised  Christianity” was rejected.  The ASA ruled that while the tweet could have been interpreted as distasteful, it concluded that “most people” would not find the portrayal of Jesus to be mocking or derogatory, and it was therefore unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.

Commenting on the ASA’s ruling, someone called Charles huffed:

I bet if it had depicted Mohammed there would have been an almighty outcry and a different outcome. Very much a case of being the DSA = double standards agency!

The release then gave an example of an “unacceptable” ad. It said that  an online adult retailer using the phrase “res-erection” to sell a sex toy as an “Easter treat”, was deemed offensive.

Also “offensive” was this one:

A Church House spokesman said on Tuesday:

We are grateful to the ASA for issuing a proportionate guideline which reiterates the importance of respecting faiths and beliefs.

Meanwhile a London newspaper, the Evening Standard, managed to offend a Christian Easter egg company in a review of its product. It praised The Meaningful Chocolate Company’s egg as being “a generous size and beautifully creamy” as well as being completely plastic free and containing no palm oil. But it then added:

Bizarrely, it also comes with a 24-page story and activity book about Jesus to ‘celebrate the real meaning of Easter’.

The word ‘bizarrely’ was removed after several Christians, including a bishop, highlighted it on Twitter.

David Marshall, Managing Director of The Meaningful Chocolate Company, who claimed in the video above that 50 percent of UK school children don’t know the “religious meaning of Easter”, said:

Well, we were quite surprised when we read the review. Obviously, [it’s] great to have a review with being plastic free and they liked the chocolate but then to actually see that review saying it’s ‘bizarre’ to include a copy of the story in the box, yeah, very surprised, actually.

10 years ago, when we first introduced the real easter egg it was because out of the 80 million eggs there was nobody actually talking about the religious meaning of the festival. So, I came up with the idea of the real easter egg, deliberately calling it the real easter egg because to be real easter egg it had to have three things: they have to include a copy of the story in the box, it has to be fair trade and it has to support charitable endeavours. 

When we launched, I was interviewed by various newspapers and quite often they would say to me, ‘Well, what’s Easter got to do with the church?’ And I’d explain what that was. And 10 years on, to still see that people still haven’t quite understood that there is a strong connection between faith and Easter is really surprising.

So we have heard this before and actually every year … arguments rage about Easter not being a religious festival or Christian festival and we find ourselves quite often deluged with people who again say, ‘you know that Christianity has nothing to do with Easter?’ It is absolutely baffling.

All David Marshall needs to do to stop being “baffled” is to Google “The pagan roots of Easter”, as I did – and immediately found this Guardian report by Heather McDougall, who wrote:

All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are very ancient too. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead.

H/T BarrieJohn

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  • Broga

    That statement from the ASA is a classic statement of the wary bureaucrat conditioned to a life of anxiety lest he cause offence. Note the “must”. Really, why “must” I not exercise free speech or free thought? The “take care”, the concern for “sensitivities” and you can spot the other snivelling examples which indicate a fear of robust statement, a fear of coming off the fence, a possibility of offending those who are so easily offended. The bureaucratic readiness to identify whoever might state an opinion, and if it seems to meet with approval, jumping in to support.

    To do what we “must” do is to descend into the misery of never knowing what to do or say for ourselves. We are shackled to others’ opinions regardless of whether we admire them or detest them.

  • Milo C

    I find the “nailed on” advertisement to be in bad taste. No one wants to see a bloody depiction of torture on a holiday celebrating life. But who complained about the sex toy advertisement? Obviously a customer of such products.

  • Broga

    I felt the same way but my dislike is of inflicted hurt or agony. I feel similarly about a life size, emaciated, nailed figure of Jesus I have to pass frequently outside an RC Church.

    But these feelings of mine are about extremes – and religion has a good supply of these – and are not close to the tender concerns of the ASA and the “we must not hurt the feelings of Christians and be sensitive to this.” The feelings are being hurt by words. Why can’t people’s feelings be hurt?

  • Jennny

    I repeat what I’ve said before. I don’t worry too much when some US states try to legislate for bible teaching in their schools. It’s been mandatory for decades in the UK, as has a daily act of x-tian worship..yet the YT clip from Alan Tichmarsh says that 50% of children don’t know the meaning of Easter. It’s dated 2011, so I venture to suggest that 8 years on, the percentage will be higher. Anecdotally, though I was involved in children’s evangelism across my region for many years, most Sunday Schools have disappeared and I’ve heard parents say they won’t send their children to a weeknight kids club, ‘because they’re all paedophiles in churches’ or ‘religious indoctrination is child abuse.’ As a parent, I can’t imagine saying to my little ones, ‘Now before you eat these delicious chocolate eggs, you must read, on the box, the story of the torturing to death of a fictitious character…’ The wrappings would ripped of in a moment, and thrown to the floor for the cat to play with!

  • Götterdämmerung

    This insulting and craven statement by the ASA is tantamount to censorship; it equates the slightest criticism of irrational belief systems as blasphemy.

  • barriejohn

    There’s a “fine line” between humour and sacrilege. So what? Do we still have blasphemy laws in this country? I though they’d been abolished now. I don’t go out of my way to offend people, but I do believe in my right to free speech!

  • barriejohn

    I was heavily involved in child evangelism as well, and often heard gullible parents say how good it was for their children to be given a “grounding” in the Bible, and so on and so forth. I don’t think that most of them had a clue what was really going on, even though they attended prize givings and must have heard their children singing choruses like “Plunge right in, lose your sin; there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.” That was years ago now, so I am heartened by your remarks to learn that they are more discerning now, and I know for a fact that Sunday Schools that averaged over 100 members, or even had to hold two sessions, are now reduced to single-digit numbers, though some of the “city churches” may be more successful.

  • Ann Kah

    “The Muslims would have a fit if we ridiculed Mohammed, so we should be allowed to be just as touchy about Jesus”, part eleventy-six.

  • Ann Kah

    Is Easter “a holiday celebrating life”? Most of us see it as a holiday of the death cult, plus chocolate. When I was young it was also the holiday where women got to wear their new hats and shoes – spring fashion was always a big part of Easter.

  • Jennny

    I observe that as churchgoing declined, through the 1960s, as you say, parents were pleased their children still went to Sunday School – and more could walk there unaccompanied by adults back then. Parents had happy, cosy memories of bible stories – kids TV was hardly in operation then, there wasn’t much else to do on Sunday mornings. They thought kids needed to know the morality the bible teaches and how it was the foundation of our x-tian nation – what a laugh that now is. As the decades have passed, younger generations of parents don’t have that same sentimental feel for x-tianity, it’s become totally irrelevant to them. Some town and city churches still have a lot of children. That’s because middle class Britain holds church schools to be better and have to promise to attend church so their children can go to that school. My DD’s church has a register at the back where parents must sign in, at least one Sunday a month. I wonder if some cheat and sign in for friends, I probably would, services are long and boring and I think the atmosphere is not good, parents not really engaged. Yet the vicar can boast of his ‘vibrant all-age congreagation.’ He fails to mention that once children reach 11yo, the family disappears rapidly – with relief I imagine.

  • barriejohn

    Exactly. I well remember calling on parents with the Sunday School Superintendent, and they would say: “I remember that my Sunday School teacher had a well-thumbed Bible like yours”. Pure nostalgia for a more certain age. (Authority figures were always respected at one time, and it was only when he was quite old that my father admitted that he no longer held the police in the same high regard that he did when he was younger.) When I mentioned “city churches” I meant the evangelical ones that meet in large auditoria, etc., but they draw their congregations from a very wide area, so the numbers mean little. I agree, however, with what you say about Church Schools, which are a curse.

  • Lonborghini Funghini

    As a repentant former pastor, and given a choice, i’ll take sacrilege any day.

  • Jim Jones

    That’s because the church tried to rule in parallel with the monarchy and eventually the monarchy co-opted the church.

    And now the Queen is the head of the church. The royals may be the last to abandon it since it has been so useful to them.

  • Jim Jones

    There’s a UK TV series called Rev which is worth catching if you can.

  • barriejohn

    Haha – I’m in the UK, so I’ve seen it. Also Father Ted and even All Gas and Gaiters (that’s going back a bit!).

  • barriejohn
  • Freethinker

    Except…..that Easter is a pre-Chritistian
    tradition which celebrate the goddess Ēostre (or Ostara), the Spring
    Equinox and fertility which is why there are eggs and bunnies still
    around, the universal symbols of fertility, and one of my favorite
    things to stump Christians on making any connection as to what they
    possibly have to do with the death of their Messiah. The only thing that is offensive here is Christian plagiarism of older traditions and myths and mixing it with a zombie plot line.

  • Mike Curnutt

    You don’t know the true story of Easter! Rabbits are associated with Easter because the very first pope, Peter, was actually Peter Rabbit. Check out the hat the pope wears…it fits perfectly over a rabbit’s ears. Why would a person wear a silly hat like that?

  • barriejohn
  • Freethinker

    And here I thought that the Pope’s giant hat was supposed to represent their essence. A human dildo.

  • ManxStuart

    The Meaningless Chocolate Trumpery whinge about something to do with their product every year, in the past usually things like how the major supermarkets won’t stock them (which in turn was simply because they’re too expensive and nobody bought them). But then, they never do anything obvious like taking out paid adverts. Considering there’s a massive, church-funded, marketing organisation behind them one can only assume they think it’s more cost effective to whip up hysteria amongst Mail-reading faith thickos instead.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    My answer would be “Fuck you if you can’t take a joke”.

  • blogcom

    What other group observes Easter besides Christians so what’s the basis for your headline………must ensure they don’t offend Christians.
    Just more doublespeak on your part?
    But wait a moment, it must be to appease pagans who wish to appropriate Easter as their own.
    To do this Easter must be de-Christianized.
    Your comments in your last paragraph are telling.

  • blogcom

    Why can’t people’s feelings be hurt or why must they take offense you ask?
    But does it preclude you from taking offense about whatever offends you?

  • Ralph Meyer

    It’s clear: religions deserve the same respect one would give any superstition: None! Just because religious nuts get bent out of shape at having their unfounded and unfoundable beliefs ridiculed is no reason not to ridicule them. After all, stupidity deserve ridicule, as do beliefs in entities whose existence can’t be proved and for which there is NO cogent evidence whatsoever.

  • Ralph Meyer

    Sacrilege? Blasphemy? How can there be sacrilege over entities whose existence can’t be proved by evidence or reason? Or for that matter, How does one blaspheme something that clearly doesn’t appear to exist?

  • Ralph Meyer

    Easter’s really the celebration of the Spring Equinox…Warmth after winter’s worth some happiness!

  • Fraser

    Religion needs to die.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “Producers of Easter items must ensure they don’t offend Christians”


  • C_Alan_Nault

    “Producers of Easter items must ensure they don’t offend Christians”

    How about a chocolate Jesus ( filled with cherry syrup) on a cross? When you bite into Jesus you can see the fake blood ( cherry syrup) come out.

  • LAnnH

    When someone says, “Put Christ back in Christmas,” I am always tempted to say, “Right after you put Eostre back in Easter (or Thor back in Thursday.)” Mostly I restrain myself…

  • barriejohn

    My father was a hoarder of the first order (I don’t think he ever threw ANYTHING away!), and since my mother’s death I have been bringing boxes down from the loft and sorting through their contents (some family members have been amazed at photos which he had kept, so I can’t just dump it all). Funnily enough, in the early hours of this morning I came across a Christmas card from the church which we attended when I were a lad (Anglican), sent to my grandmother, with whom we lived. I guess that from its appearance, and from the documents with which it was stored, it dates from the early 1940s. The cover depicts the church, with “Christmas Greetings” in bold, Old English print below (all black and white), but what surprised me was the (printed) message inside:

    With heartiest good wishes for a Happy Holiday Season (my emphasis)

    It was even signed “From Santa Clause” (sic).

    Let them put that in their pipes and smoke it!