By Ruth Gledhil
Marks & Spencer have dropped their ban on words such as “Christ” and “Jesus” when customers order flowers online.
The retailer provoked criticism when it emerged that people making online orders could use words such as “jihad”, Buddha and Allah in accompanying messages, but “Christ” and “Jesus” were blocked.
Marks & Spencer had in fact blocked these words to avoid their misuse, and the block was intended as a way of avoiding offence. The words have now been reinstated, a spokesman said.
The spokesman told Christian Today: “We apologise for any offence caused, it was certainly never our intention. We have revised the words included on the automatic phrase checker which is in place to prevent the use and misuse of certain words.”
Profanities and the word “gay” were also banned.
It meant that customers who tried to add a free message when they bought flowers could not complete their order if they attempted to use one of the banned words. A pop-up message told them: “Sorry, there’s something in your message we can’t write.”
The restrictions were exposed by The Sunday Times after a customer was prevented from buying a £35 bouquet for a funeral. Clergy wife Geraldine Stockford tried to attach a message to the flowers stating that they were from a family in “Christ Church Teddington”. She was prevented from doing so and when she telephoned customer services to find out why, was told it must be a blocked word. The customer services operator did then agree to write the message for her as she wished it.
The full message read: “Thank you for your care and practical help for Margaret in her last days . . . With love from her church family, Christ Church Teddington.” The late Margaret, 93, whose funeral is this week, was a church member for 87 years.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, said: “If Christ becomes an offensive word in a Christian land then all of us should be alarmed.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: “It is a sad state of affairs if the start point is to assume the word Christ is being used to be offensive.”