After coming under fire for rejecting an ad because it included the word "Christian," a Knoxville, Tennessee newspaper claimed the controversy stemmed from a computer error and that it does not have a bias "against Christianity or any other religion."
According to Fox News, Lois McGinnis and her family, the owners Cedar Springs Christian Store, recently decided to close a second location of the store and thus placed an ad in the classified section of the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The advertisement read: "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."
However, after the ad didn't appear in the newspaper, McGinnis called the company and was informed that it did not run because it contained an offensive word.
"I asked what that offensive word was and she said the offensive word was 'Christian,'" McGinnis told Fox News contributor Todd Starnes.
She also disclosed that the News Sentinel did not notify her in advance the ad had been rejected nor did they call to say they were refunding her money.
"We had no way of knowing they considered the word 'Christian' offensive until we tried to place this ad," she said. "As Christians, this was a slap in the face to us."
After receiving backlash from the local community, the Knoxville News Sentinel posted a statement on its Facebook page saying the whole thing was a technology "error" on their end.
"We apologize for any misunderstanding about the News Sentinel stance on Christianity. 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."
Publisher Patrick Birmingham also released a statement explaining that the newspaper will run the ad 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," he said.
Some readers weren't convinced the apology was entirely sincere: "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."
"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."