On Tuesday, Concordia Publishing House (CPH), the publishing arm of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said it was told by Google to either remove all references to Jesus Christ and/or the Bible in all of its ads or use a different ad product.
According to Concordia, Google informed them on Monday that all of their remarketing advertisements were “disabled due to a violation of Google’s policy for advertising based on interests and location.”
Remarketing ads reach out to individuals who have made a decision to visit a CPH webpage. Google defines this as showing “ads to people who’ve visited your website or used your mobile app. When people leave your website without buying anything, for example, remarketing helps you reconnect with them by showing relevant ads across their different devices.”
Upon receiving notification that the remarketing ads were disapproved, CPH staff contacted Google. In this conversation, CPH staff members were informed that remarketing ads based on religious beliefs were not allowed. After reviewing cph.org, cph.org/blog, and splashcanyon.cph.org, the Google representative indicated that content provided by CPH was beyond the scope of becoming compliant with Google.
CPH staff requested that a manager review the decision. This request was denied. The Google representative proceeded to inform CPH staff of changes that could be made to splashcanyon.org to bring it into compliance. These changes included removing specific faith-based content.
After a manual review, Google said the type of ad in question would not be allowed based on the company’s policy prohibiting the expression of religious belief in personalized content.
A Google AdWords Support representative told CPH the disapproval resulted from the fact that the items in the ad and on the CPH website refer to Jesus and/or the Bible.
They were was also informed that they could either remove all items that refer to Jesus or the Bible and proceed to use the remarketing ads or use a different type of Google ad product.
The publishing house said that a follow-up email from AdWords Support reiterated the need to change or remove content. In part, the email said the following:
Troubleshooter: Religious belief in personalized advertising
- Read the policy aboveto learn what we don’t allow. Ensure that your ads, site, or app comply with Personalizedadvertising policies. Note that even if ads are not targeted using sensitive categories, some types of ad content are still prohibited.
- Remove that content from your site or app.If your site or app has content that we don’t allow, remove all content that doesn’t comply with this policy or rename with matching synonym. You’ll then need to request a review before moving on to the next step of checking your audience lists.
- Remove that content from your ad.
If your ad violates this policy, edit it to make it comply.
Said CPH President and CEO Dr. Bruce G. Kintz in response:
Clearly, CPH does not agree with Google’s decision in this matter. If we are willing to remove references to our faith in our ads or website, then we will be allowed to use remarketing ads with Google. Simply stated, we are not willing to sacrifice our beliefs to comply with Google’s requirements.
It’s no secret that society is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian faith. This increasing hostility makes our mission of proclaiming that faith through the books, Bibles, and curriculum that we produce all the more important. We will continue to proclaim the faith because we know without a doubt that the Word of the Lord endures forever.
Google, by the way, controls a significant amount of advertising revenue on the Internet.
As we reported earlier, the House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing focused on social media filtering and censorship to take place Thursday morning. Google was invited to participate in that hearing, but, reports have said, the company has decided not to participate.