UPDATE: ESPN Does 180 on Catholic Group’s Christmas-Themed Jesus Ad After First Deeming It ‘Problematic’

The Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation told to TheBlaze on Thursday morning that sports network ESPN has rejected a Christmas-themed commercial from the Catholic organization because of its reference to celebrating “the birth of Jesus” and “God’s healing message.”

ESPN Rejects Catholic Kids Hospitals Christmas Ad Over Mention of the Birth of Jesus and Gods Healing Message

A screen shot from The Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation ad (Image source: YouTube)

ESPN is now finding itself smack dab in the middle of the so-called “War on Christmas,” as heated debate over the commercial ban abounds.

The foundation, which raises funds for its SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, a Catholic institution in St. Louis, Mo., said that its commercial, which encourages the public to write holiday messages for sick children, was most definitely rejected by ESPN for religious reasons.

Dan Buck, vice-president of Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation, detailed the back-and-forth with the network in an interview with TheBlaze.

Buck said communications with ESPN were facilitated by the Missouri Valley Conference, an athletic organization that has partnered with the foundation over the years and was helping try and bring the commercial to ESPNU’s national airwaves during the University of Northern Iowa vs. Virginia Commonwealth University basketball game this Saturday.

After the initial rejection, The Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation pressed ESPN to better understand exactly why the ad wasn’t accepted.

“The spot has never been questioned,” Buck told TheBlaze of its usage by past outlets. “Missouri Valley submitted on our behalf and told us that the spot had been rejected and we would need to edit out ‘Jesus’ and ‘God’ in order to make it palatable for (ESPN).”

The foundation was reportedly notified on Saturday that the commercial would definitively not be aired in its current form.

“They directly said the words in their quote ‘Jesus and God are problematic,’” Buck added. “We’re obviously very disappointed in their decision.”

A portion of the 30-second spot was presented as follows: “Each Christmas, thousands in our community send messages of hope to sick and injured child who may not be able to come home for the holidays. At SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Center, we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the season of giving.”

The commercial also went on to mention “God’s healing presence.”

Watch the ad below:

This account comes after television host Bill O’Reilly’s report on “The O’Reilly Factor” Wednesday evening, during which he called ESPN out for the ad ban.

“But ESPN said they would not run that ad because the lines ‘celebrate the birth of Jesus’ and ‘God’s healing message’ are problematic,” O’Reilly said. “Their word to the network.”

Watch O’Reilly cover the issue:

In an emailed statement to TheBlaze and a subsequent phone interview, ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz declined to go into detail about the religious contents associated with the original commercial.

“As originally submitted, the spot did not meet our commercial advocacy standards, which we adhere to consistently,” Krulewitz said in the statement. “We have since been supplied with a different commercial which will air on the 14th.”

This replacement commercial is more generic in nature and does not invoke or include the words and themes associated with “Jesus,” “God” and “Christmas.”

The ad that ESPN accepted for air this weekend was previously filmed and a time stamp on YouTube shows that it was first uploaded by the foundation in July; it does not advertise The Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation‘s Christmas initiative as was originally intended.

Watch the new ad below:

In ESPN’s statement to TheBlaze, the company explained that, like other networks, it has a commercial standards approval process that all spots must go through.

The company reaffirmed that not every commercial makes it on the company’s networks, but made no mention of the exact reason for the rejection of the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation’s initial ad.

A portion of ESPN’s ad standards governing religion read as follows: “ESPN does not accept advertising that consists of, in whole or in part, political or religious advocacy, or issue-oriented advertising.”

The question now seems to be: Does accepting commercials with God and Christmas count as advocacy?

This is the second Christmas controversy this week to strike The Walt Disney Company, ESPN’s primary owner. TheBlaze previously reported Tuesday about controversy surrounding the removal of an essay about Jesus Christ from Epcot’s and Disneyland’s annual “Candlelight Processional.”

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Blaze Editor Billy Hallowell discusses this story with Editor in Chief Scott Baker: