Sweet Jesus ice cream shops face boycott, as Christians call its branding 'hate speech'
Toronto-based chain recently expanded into the U.S., which has raised concerns, online petitions
Toronto-based ice cream chain Sweet Jesus is facing calls for a boycott from Christians who say the name is blasphemous and mocks their religion.
The chain, founded in 2015 by Andrew Richmond and Amin Todai, has 20 locations, mainly clustered in the Greater Toronto Area, and is known for its decadent frozen desserts. It has recently expanded into the U.S. and plans more locations south of the border, which has raised the ire of Christians.
"Choosing the name of our Lord for a brand of soft-serve ice cream is totally offensive and revolting," reads one petition on CitizenGo.org, an activist group that describes itself as being in favour of "life, family, and liberty."
"This is anything but a mere mistake," the petition, signed by almost 10,000 people, reads. "Both in their promotional materials and menu selection, it is plain to see that Richmond and Todai have every intention of mocking Christ and Christianity. If anything could qualify as hate speech, this is it."
Another petition on Change.org says if a chain were to use a name invoking figures from other religions, it wouldn't be permitted.
"We are calling on not just Christians, but anyone who is against religious discrimination to take a stand against this brand until the name is changed so as not to be offensive … and until such time as it does not discriminate against any religion," that petition reads.
Those against the chain are calling for an apology, and a name change.
But in a statement to CBC News, the owners say they aren't planning on doing the latter.
"We are conscious of the fact that, to some, our name can be off-putting," Richmond said. "That fact is something we struggle with, because we sincerely do not wish to give offence or show disrespect in any way toward anyone's personal beliefs.
"After a lot of thought, we have decided that we will not make a change," the statement continues.
"Sweet Jesus is an honest reflection of our experiences and that of our customers and how they react when they try our product. In our experience, the majority of people understand that we're not trying to make a statement about religion."