Acton Institute Powerblog

The Boston Beer Company’s Hypocrisy

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GrumpyMonkAs a brief follow-up to the story about the Samuel Adams beer company’s decision to redact “by their Creator” from a reference to the Declaration of Independence in a recent ad campaign, it’s worth examining again the company’s justification for that decision. According to a spokeswoman, “We adhere to an advertising code, established by the Beer Institute.” The code in question includes the provision, “Beer advertising and marketing materials should not employ religion or religious themes.”

As some comments have noted, the reference to the Creator in the Declaration could be reasonably understood generically, and need not amount to the level of “employing religion.” But as another comment noted in response to the piece at LifeSiteNews, the Boston Beer Company’s retreat to the Advertising and Marketing Code is even more craven given the company’s history of violating that code.

For instance, between 2000-2002, the Boston Beer Company sponsored a morning radio stunt titled “Sex for Sam,” which was “an annual contest where the goal was to have sex in notable public places in New York City.” Point 5b of the Beer Institute’s code says that beer advertising “may contain romantic or flirtatious interactions but should not portray sexually explicit activity as a result of consuming beer.” Point 6 prohibits “graphic nudity,” while point 2 says that beer should be marketed “in a responsible manner,” including proscription of “illegal activity of any kind.”

Consider the case of “Sex for Sam 3,” in which “comedian Paul Mecurio encouraged Brian Florence and Loretta Harper, a Virginia couple visiting Manhattan, to have simulated sex in a vestibule at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on August 15, 2002.” The result of this stunt was an arrest for public lewdness.

Sam Adams also has also produced a seasonal craft beer called “Grumpy Monk,” which acknowledges that “the long held brewing traditions of Belgian monks aren’t meant to be broken.” So much for not employing “religion or religious themes.”

The Beer Institute code has been around since at least 1999, and provisions then were substantially similar (here’s a PDF from an appendix to a FTC report on self-regulation in the alcohol industry).

Between “Sex for Sam” campaign and the secularizing of the Declaration of Independence more recently, there’s a larger pattern of behavior emerging that illustrates the Boston Beer Company’s hypocrisy.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty, where he also serves as executive editor the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary. He has authored articles in academic publications such as The Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, and Journal of Scholarly Publishing, and has written popular pieces for newspapers including the Detroit News, Orange County Register, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2006, Jordan was profiled in the book, The Relevant Nation: 50 Activists, Artists And Innovators Who Are Changing The World Through Faith. Jordan's scholarly interests include Reformation studies, church-state relations, theological anthropology, social ethics, theology and economics, and research methodology. Jordan is a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), and he resides in Jenison, Michigan with his wife and three children.

Comments

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  • Alex Sawyer

    If it’s just a generic reference, then there’s no need for people to be upset that the word “creator” was omitted. You can have it both ways.

    • Is the Declaration of Independence offensive such that it needs to be redacted for public consumption today?

  • patsw

    If you include the Declaration of Independence, then include it as written. I would like to see the email exchange between the Boston Beer Company and the Beer Institute over this.