Kroger has banned a weekly newspaper from its stores near Nashville after The Rutherford Reader ran articles critical of the Muslim faith. The grocery store chain accused the newspaper of publishing "hate rhetoric" -- something co-owner Pete Doughtie strongly denied.
The newspaper ran a column that accused Islam of being "evil." It also called for a ban on Muslim immigration. A local man complained and that led Kroger to launch a five-week review of the publication.
"We saw a consistent pattern of what we believed to be hate rhetoric," Kroger spokeswoman Melissa Eads, told The Tennessean. "We can't and don't promote hate speech against anyone."
The Tennessean reported the newspaper has also been removed from a local Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.
The Rutherford Reader is a free newspaper, published weekly and distributed in grocery stores and other retail outlets. Doughtie denied his publication is a vehicle for hate speech.
"We're American patriots," he told the newspaper. "Don't you think someone needs to ask what may be going on here when this country is at war with Islamic fascists?"
The controversy rages as Tennesseans debate proposed mosques in and around Nashville - a city that is home to the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
Anthony Mijares told The Tennessean he filed the original complaint against The Rutherford Reader.
"When The Rutherford Reader publishes the statement that Islam is evil, defiling and dehumanizing, all you have to do is substitute the word Judaism (in place of Islam) and you know what that kind of commentary is without question," he said. "People would get it immediately. That is hate speech."
The First Amendment Center said Kroger was within its rights to ban the newspaper.