ESPN Reverses Decision; Will Air Ad Mentioning 'The Birth of Jesus'

An advertisement for a Catholic hospital that mentions "the birth of Jesus" and "God's healing message" will be run by ESPN on Saturday after it was initially rejected by the network, reportedly because of its religious content.

The ad encourages viewers to send messages to the sick children at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center (CGCMC) in St. Louis, Mo., as a part of the hospital's Tree of Hope campaign.

Dan Buck, vice president of the Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation (CGCF), told The Blaze that ESPN initially rejected the commercial because the words "Jesus" and "God" were "problematic." After media outlets began reporting that the ad had been rejected and a public outcry ensued, however, the network reversed its decision.

"We have again reviewed the ads submitted for the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center and have concluded that we will accept the original requested commercial," ESPN said in a statement emailed to CP. "It will run in Saturday's VCU at Northern Iowa basketball game on ESPNU. This decision is consistent with our practice of individual review of all ads under our commercial advocacy standards."

Part of ESPN's advertising guidelines state that the network rejects "political or religious advocacy, or issue-oriented advertising."

Rose Fogarty, director of marketing and communications for CGCF, said the ad was submitted to ESPN through the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), with whom the hospital has a corporate partnership. After initially being rejected the foundation prepared to show a different ad, but hospital president Sherlyn Hailstone says she is glad the original will be shown.

"ESPN rejected our ad on the basis of religious advocacy and our celebration of the baby Jesus and God. While we respected their right to make this decision, we were extremely disappointed in their position," said Hailstone in a statement provided to CP. "We were pleased to learn of their change of heart yesterday and understand that they will now air our Tree of Hope ad during this Saturday's NCAA game. We appreciate all the support we've received from across America and the thousands who have stood up for our mission and for faith."

Hailstone also thanked those who have participated in the Tree of Hope campaign and have shared messages of hope with the children through the foundation's website.

"I would ask everyone to remember the children who are sick, hungry and lacking the basic necessities each day especially during the Christmas season because that's what's really important," she said.

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