MOORESVILLE, N.C. (ABP) – Lowe’s officials met Dec. 20 with a group of ministers who hand-delivered more than 200,000 petition signatures protesting the company’s decision to pull its advertising from a television show criticized by a conservative Christian group for portraying Muslims in a favorable light.
After the meeting, the delegation from the interfaith Mecklenburg Ministries said they better understood the company’s decision to pull ads from a new reality show that follows American Muslim families as they go about their daily lives in Dearborn, Mich.
“I think many of us would love for Lowe's to have continued to advertise, to continue to have supported that community, but they have talked to us about their support of diversity," said Pastor Russ Dean of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. “We read their values statement, so we’re certainly appreciative of that stand.”
The home-improvement giant pulled advertising from The Learning Channel’s new program called All-American Muslim after the Florida Family Association issued alerts encouraging supporters to send e-mails to companies including Lowe’s that advertised during the Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 episodes.
“All-American Muslim is propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values,” said the Dec. 6 action alert.
Lowe’s responded with a statement that read: “While we continue to advertise on various cable networks, including TLC, there are certain programs that do not meet Lowe's advertising guidelines, including the show you brought to our attention. Lowe's will no longer be advertising on that program.”
Critics immediately accused the company of caving in to pressure from anti-Muslim extremists. Faithful America, CREDO Action, Change.org, Groundswell, Sum of Us and People for the American Way collected more than 200,000 petition signatures urging Lowe’s to reinstate its advertising on the show.
“There’s no ‘debate’ about anti-Muslim bigotry; it’s unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of the faith community,” the Faithful America petition read. “Don’t cave to religious hatred – resume advertising on All-American Muslim.”
“This promotion of anti-Muslim bigotry is not in keeping with our faith values,” said Michael Sherrard with the on-line community of progressive Christians. “We cannot stand by when a company bows to pressure from an extreme group and is complicit in discrimination against Muslims. Lowe’s should change course and resume advertising on All-American Muslim.”
A Lowe’s official said the company’s decision has been largely misunderstood. “Our decision was based on not the show itself, not the content at all,” said company spokeswoman Chris Ahearn. “It was based on the controversy that had emerged around the program itself.”
While Lowe’s denied the decision was influenced by any single organization, the Florida Family Association claimed that more than 1 million e-mails were sent through its server to companies that advertised during All-American Muslim, a new record.
A statement about the controversy on Lowe’s Facebook page generated more than 13,000 comments.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.