Irvine Co. removes SoCal Harvest ad from Fashion Island mall after alleged threat

Irvine Co. removes SoCal Harvest ad from Fashion Island mall after alleged threat

The SoCal Harvest event at Angel Stadium draws an estimated 100,000 people over its three-day run each summer, but it won’t be recruiting attendees at Fashion Island mall, where the Irvine Co. took down a billboard advertising the event.


The ad showed Harvest Christian Fellowship’s Senior Pastor Greg Laurie holding a microphone and raising a book in his right hand as if preaching to a crowd, and listed information on this year’s event – formerly known as the Harvest Crusade – which takes place Aug. 17 to 19. It was on the side of a parking garage by Neiman Marcus from July 19 until the Irvine Co. – which owns Fashion Island in Newport Beach – removed it on Friday, Aug. 3, Harvest Executive Pastor John Collins said Tuesday.


Church officials were told “there were complaints they had received and there was a threat that they had received” about the billboard, Collins said. “We don’t know the nature of that threat and since then they have been unwilling to speak to us.”


A billboard at Fashion Island in Newport Beach was removed after the Irvine Co. said it received complaints and a threat. (Courtesy of Harvest Christian Fellowship)

Irvine Co. spokesman Scott Starkey would only say the company has reached out to Laurie to apologize. Starkey declined to answer further questions.


The same ad was displayed on a banner at the Irvine Spectrum, another Irvine Co. property, and that also was taken down and the church’s money was refunded, Collins said. An identical ad remains at the Galleria at Tyler in Riverside, where the church is based; the Irvine Co. does not own that mall and Collins said he hasn’t heard of any complaints about the ad there.


The ad was patterned after old images of the late pastor Billy Graham, a friend and mentor to Laurie, but the book it shows is not labeled as a Bible and does not have a cross or other religious symbols on it, Collins said.


“The thing that goes through my mind, at least, is it’s kind of an indicator of where we are culturally,” Collins said.


The free evangelistic crusade has been held for 29 years and works with charities that help the homeless and others in need, he said. “There’s many things that happen in the context of the event that are very positive for the community, so to have that brushed aside as if it’s not important is rather disturbing.”


In a Tuesday blog post on the church’s website, titled “For some, the Bible is offensive,” Laurie wrote: “Everybody needs to just relax a little bit. I see images on billboards and displays in stores that I find offensive all the time. I do not complain or boycott. I just think as Christians we ought to have ‘equal time’ and a voice in the marketplace.”


Collins said church officials are bewildered that someone would make a complaint, but they’re not upset with the Irvine Co., and may advertise with it in the future.


Newport Beach Police Sgt. Peter Carpentieri said he’s not aware of any threat regarding the Harvest ad being reported to the department.