SUV supporters counter Jesus ads

Posted: Friday, July 18, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) Frustrated by ads attacking sport utility vehicles, including religious leaders' ''What Would Jesus Drive?'' campaign, a pro-SUV group is launching its own ads celebrating plus-size vehicles for their safety and versatility.

The fledgling Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America plans a series of national ads that asks, ''What Would Jesus (Rivera) Drive?'' The ad shows a smiling, waving man named Jesus Rivera in front of his 1995 SUV, who says the vehicle gets him through the snow and easily transports his grandchildren.

''For millions of people like Jesus Rivera, it's all about safety, utility and versatility. Maybe that's why they call them SUVs,'' the ad says, before urging SUV owners to protect their rights.

The ad comes as the Rev. Jim Ball of the Evangelical Environmental Network completes an 11-city tour of Southern states in a hybrid Toyota Prius as part of his ''What Would Jesus Drive?'' campaign. Ball started the tour in Austin, Texas, on May 29.

Ball and the 90 other Christian leaders who are backing the ''What Would Jesus Drive?'' campaign contend that vehicle choices are moral decisions, and that SUVs are hurting the earth by increasing pollution and oil dependence.

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