Christian satire website The Babylon Bee has been criticised for publishing a piece deemed racist and insensitive by many faith leaders.
The site ran a piece titled 'Chick-Fil-A Now Open On Sunday But Only For Black People' in reference to Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy - after the businessman shined the shoes of African-American rapper Lecrae at a recent panel discussion on racial reconciliation.
The intro read: "Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy announced yesterday that his fast-food restaurant will be ending its long-standing policy on Sunday closure, but only for black people."
Much of the criticism levelled at the Bee appears to be in relation to a bogus quote the writers made up and attributed to Cathy, which read:
"Chick-fil-A will always be a kind and welcoming place for the blacks, the Chinamen, and those people who wear that red dot on their foreheads. Just please don't steal the sauces and we'll be cool. Or if you want to steal the sauces, that's ok too. We honor you."
After the article was picked up on by Washington Post religion reporter, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, many Christian leaders responded in horror.
Evangelist and author Beth Moore replied: "Gross. The most worn out excuse on earth is to say something completely ignorant, hateful and racist and then claim you were just joking. Racist satire is still racist."
The Senior Vice President for Communications at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), Daniel Darling, simply wrote: "This wasn't funny. Be better."
Following the controversy, a tweet from Babylon Bee appeared to offer an apology for the article and a subsequent retraction of the piece:
"Recently, we posted an apology for an article that many people found offensive. We were informed that many in the squirrel community were offended by the apology, and so would like to retract the apology. We are sorry and will do better."
However, the satirical publication, which has come under an increasing volume of criticism for publishing politically biased content, followed up by posting a link to an article titled: 'Report: The Squirrels Are Up To Something'.
They added: "The squirrels are not up to something. They are just being squirrels. We regret implying otherwise. Thank you for calling us out and holding us accountable."
Facing a deluge of criticism for the piece, on Twitter, the Bee's CEO Seth Dillon responded in defiance: "No apology."
He added: "Woke whites are actually doing this cringeworthy stuff. We're simply highlighting the absurdity and offensiveness of racial pandering driven by white guilt. It's the real world behavior this satire is based on — not our critical highlighting of it — that's tasteless/racist."
The Babylon Bee's founder, Adam Ford, attempted to defend the piece by insisting that the preceding text to the quote pulled out by Pulliam Bailey was written in a "glaringly satirical manner".
Ford added: "Just because our present circumstances in the world have declared "racist" the safest, most consequence-free smear you can sling at someone, the term is no less heinous, slanderous, or sinful when falsely employed."
As of Monday, the article is still live on The Babylon Bee's website.