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Christian Buyer’s Guides Help Born-Again Businesses Reach Out

September 18, 1991

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Mortgage broker Dick Modzeleski wanted to say a lot on a small budget, so he put an ad in the Christian Buyer’s Guide, a directory that helps the born- again do business.

″It was a good source for me because I was actually trying to appeal to the Christian market,″ Modzeleski said. ″I felt that there needed to be a voice in the Christian community as far as mortgage brokers. It worked out really well.″

Such targeting of advertising to fellow believers has come under fire from some people, especially because directories in some states exclude business owners who don’t belong to the faith.

Richard Fandrich, who publishes Christian Buyer’s Guides in a dozen Northern California communities, said his guide is no different from any special-interest catalog. The books are distributed free at churches and Christian bookstores, with circulation ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 depending on the city.

″It’s a biblical principle. It’s found in Galatians 6:10. ’Do good unto all men especially those of the household of faith,‴ said Fandrich, who started the business 18 years ago. He said consumers trust his advertisers.

″That’s not saying that a Christian is better than anyone else,″ Fandrich said. ″You can get ripped off by a Christian ... but primarily a guy that’s really true to his faith won’t do that.″

Bible verses and sayings extolling Christian virtures are scattered throughout the guides, and some ads carry Christian symbols. There are advertisements for auto mechanics, pest control companies and insurance companies, but also ones for churches, Christian radio stations and anti- abortion groups.

An ad in the Sacramento guide offers ″Holy Rollin’ Mobile Music Services.″

California’s civil rights law bans religious-based trade conspiracies, making it illegal to restrict ad space based on religion. A disclaimer in Fandrich’s guides say they ″should in no way be construed to imply that Christians should not do business with non-Christians.″

″I’ve made loans to all walks and faiths,″ Modzeleski said.

Not all states have specific laws to protect against religious discrimination. For example, to advertise in The Christian Pages, a Michigan directory with a circulation of 75,000, business owners must profess - in writing - that they believe in Christ.

Richard Hirschhaut, director of the San Francisco office of the Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said the directories reflect a ″continuing trend toward religious exclusivity in business dealings.″

″In our judgment, while disclaimers may be helpful there is still too often a chilling effect against potential customers who may not share the specific religious orientation of the particular business,″ he said.

David Friedman, director of the the Jewish group’s Washington office, said members have objected to several religious directories on the East Coast, including the Baltimore-based Shepherd’s Guide, which has a circulation of 75,000 from Maine to Florida.

″Our position is real clear-cut that the directory is objectionable,″ he said.

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