A Canadian ice cream company expanding into the United States has been slammed by some Christians for its name and marketing imagery.
Sweet Jesus, a Toronto-based chain that has an outlet in Baltimore, Md., and plans to open at the Mall of America in Minnesota this summer, uses an upside-down cross in its branding as well as an SS-style "s" in its graphics reminiscent of those used by Satanic Metal rock bands.
The controversial moniker and imagery, which also contains vampire-like teeth and blood, has spurred an online petition at Change.org, which had been signed by more than 2,000 people as of Wednesday afternoon.
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"This is a mockery of taking the Lord's name in vain and also highly offensive to Christians," said the petition, started by a person identifying himself as Ian O'Sullivan.
The petition added that the imagery used to promote the band is "anti-Christ" and "anti-Christian."
"God forbid the name of the prophet Muhammad was used in this manner or the name of Allah against Muslims," the statement continued. "So why is it that the name of Jesus Christ can be openly mocked in our so-called fair, equal, and democratic society?"
Another petition, on the Canadian website CitizenGO, had garnered more than 11,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.
The company, whose product is soft-serve and covered in colorful toppings, said it does not mean to offend. In a statement on its website, it said the name "was created from the popular phrase that people use as an expression of enjoyment, surprise or disbelief. Our aim is not to offer commentary on anyone's religion or belief systems. Our own organization is made up of amazing people that represent a wide range of cultural and religious beliefs."
Meanwhile, Sweet Jesus co-owner Andrew Richmond told the Toronto Star the name originated when an employee at a taco restaurant he ran kept saying "sweet Jesus" when he served the ice cream prepared there. The popularity of the dessert spurred the chain to open in 2015.