Readers: Respect separation of church and plate

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Tyson Foods' recent addition of nondenominational prayer books on its Web site is a move by the protein purveyor to capture the rising tide of religiosity among consumers. But, if AdAge.com readers are any indication, that strategy could backfire among many consumers-including the deeply religious-who want to see a clear separation between their poultry and their prayers.

"Henceforth, I will buy no more Tyson forever," stated Jim Morgan, a consultant with Morgan Consulting in Chicago.

Susan Cocco, senior VP, Colangelo Marketing in Darien, Conn., likewise cried foul about faith-friendly fowl. "I care not for a company which equates its brand with godliness," Ms. Cocco said. "What's next? Pious pot pies? Wondrous wings? Or maybe faith-based claims ... `Need to buy your way to heaven? Tyson knows what God wants.' Instead of pandering to the `faith-friendly' climate of the nation, why not address what consumers really want from Tyson: taste, variety, an understanding of the challenges of modern living. ... Now that would be a godsend!"

Despite the vitriol from many who fear the encroachment of religion in their lives or those more religious folk who resent commercial connections to their faith, a number of respondents gave Tyson credit for making a brave move. "I'm grateful that a large company like Tyson is brave enough to stand up against this country's attempt to get rid of God," said Brock Girard, art director for Fort Smith, Ark.-based Williams/Crawford & Associates. "Today chicken, tomorrow prayer in school!"

Jeremy Brown, assistant manager-promotion marketing for General Mills agreed. "To have a major company take the initiative to acknowledge faith as part of daily life is a huge affirmation. I don't know about other faiths, but there are a lot of Christians out there looking for companies they can believe in. Talk about first-mover advantage for Tyson."

Many expressed their hope that Tyson's move is part of a bigger trend toward more openly expressed moral values. Monica Cory, executive director of the Portland Area Radio Council in Oregon, said, "In a media-driven society that frequently showcases the worst in human behavior. ... I see no reason to question the idea of promoting prayer that might result in reflection, thoughtfulness and grace."

What you say: 63% of AdAge.com voters said it is not a good idea for Tyson Foods to inject religion into its marketing. The remaining voters felt that there is indeed room for religion at the table, brought to you by Tyson.

Next week’s question is "Should marketers bow to pressure from groups like the American Family Association?" To submit your answer go to AdAge.com, QwikFIND aao29v

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