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Wash. Restaurant Criticized for Easter Ad Showing Jesus Smoking Marijuana, Eating Cheeseburger

A Seattle fast food restaurant is receiving criticism for sending an advertisement to customers via email that shows an image of Jesus smoking marijuana and eating a cheeseburger.

The restaurant, Lunch Laboratory, recently released a controversial advertisement to subscribers of its email marketing list that shows an image of Jesus holding a marijuana cigarette and a cheeseburger. The image is advertising a "buy one, get one free" deal on April 20. While this Sunday marks the Christian holiday of Easter, April 20 is also known by many to be the informal holiday celebrating marijuana.

Above the image of Jesus, in green lettering, reads the date: "4.20.14." A voice bubble coming out of Jesus' mouth reads: "When I get back, all I want is the Burger of the Gods," a reference to one of the restaurant's menu options.

The advertisement seeks to make a connection between the informal "stoner holiday" of April 20, Easter Sunday, and the Second Coming of Jesus. The restaurant's owner John Schmidt admitted in a KIRO radio interview with local host Dori Monson that his company knew they were pushing the envelope when they created the controversial ad, but he added that "that is kind of what our marketing is about."

"We're looking for people to be talking about our marketing," Schmidt told Monson on his KIRO radio program. "You talking about us on the air is the grand slam, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. I honestly am not trying to offend you as a Christian."

Schmidt added that maybe he went "too far" with his most recent marketing strategy.

The restaurant owner received criticism from Monson, who said he doesn't find the advertisement to be edgy, cool or hip. Monson has identified himself as a practicing Catholic.

"I don't think it's funny to show Jesus smoking a joint. I don't think it's cool. I don't think it's hip. It certainly isn't edgy," Monson said on his radio program. "Free speech, I'm all for it, I'm not saying they shouldn't be allowed to do this. If they don't care about alienating whatever percentage of their customer base who are Christians, if they don't care about that, go ahead and do it. But I will tell you it's a place I've gone to that I will never ever go back to again."

Schmidt added to the local KCPQ-TV station that he doesn't think Christians or non-Christians should be looking to his restaurant as an example of moralism. "I'm not your moral compass," the owner said. "We're just trying to sell sandwiches. If you're looking to me for moral direction you're probably misguided."

Although the controversial Jesus advertisement is not posted on the Facebook page for LunchBox Laboratory, the restaurant has posted a more toned-down Easter ad, showing a rabbit sitting among painted eggs while smoking marijuana. The advertisement still encourages patrons to visit the restaurant on Easter Sunday to try the "Burger of the Gods."

This is not the first time the restaurant has posted controversial advertisements. One image posted to their Instagram account shows the profile of a pregnant woman, but a cheeseburger sits in her stomach instead of a fetus. The advertisement's text reads: "Congratulations! It's a burger!"

On its website, the restaurant also advertises a weekly special involving a "Legalized THC Patty" that includes a combination meat patty "rubbed with Herb Love."

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