What you need to know about the group who’s funding the Super Bowl Jesus ads

Super Bowl ads are always a point of conversation, but there’s several things that need to be discussed about the “He Gets Us” commercials, which aim to introduce viewers to “the Jesus of radical forgiveness, compassion and love.”

The ad campaign hopes to counter the notion that religion is used to divide people at a time when the nation’s Christian population is shrinking and more Americans consider themselves unaffiliated with a religion. The ads will reach more than 100 million viewers Sunday night.

The ads address modern concerns about family, money and safety.

One ad says “Jesus struggled to make ends meet, too.” An ad featuring a family says “Jesus disagreed with loved ones. But didn’t disown them.” Another ad describes Jesus as “an influencer who became insanely popular” — before he “was canceled.”

The “He Gets Us” website says “we’re not ‘left’ or ‘right,’ or a political organization of any kind,” but the organization behind the commercials, Kansas-based Servant Foundation gave more than $50 million to the far-right group, Alliance Defending Freedom, between 2018 and 2020, according to a report from Jacobin. Servant Foundation’s funding of the group was reported in its tax returns.

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The Alliance Defending Freedom is listed as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Christian legal group has supported cases limiting abortion access and supporting anti-LGBTQ discrimination based on religious freedom.

Servant Foundation has also been funded by Hobby Lobby CEO David Green who became embroiled in a mixup of faith, sex and politics in 2014 when the Christian craft store won a Supreme Court case allowing the company to refuse to pay for contraceptives through employee insurance plans.

The Associated Press reported “He Gets Us” spent $20 million on Super Bowl ads. Jacobin reported the group plans to spend $1 billion promoting the outreach efforts, including Sunday’s ads.

But why the Super Bowl?

“It fits with our target audience really well,” campaign spokesperson Jason Vanderground told AP about the choice to buy the expensive and highly-viewed ads. “We’re trying to get the message across to people who are spiritually open, but skeptical.”

Young Americans are shrinking away from Christianity and choosing to say they are unaffiliated with a specific religion, according to data from a Pew Research report on the future of religion in America. Christianity will no longer be the majority religion in the U.S. as soon as 2045, if current religious switching trends continue, Pew said.

Despite the trend away from Christianity, the country’s legislature remains largely Christian. Currently 63 percent of Americans identify as Christian, but 88 percent of voting members in Congress are Christian, Pew said. Some prominent Republicans have supported efforts to declare America a Christian nation—a belief held by the growing influence of Christian Nationalism in Republican lawmakers.

This isn’t the first time a Christianity-related ad has stirred up controversy around the Super Bowl. There was the 2010 anti-abortion ad for fundamentalist Christian ministry Focus on the Family featuring Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam Tebow.

In 2011, Fox Sports, which aired the Super Bowl, rejected a 30-second ad about John 3:16—arguably the most known Bible verse which explains what Christians consider God’s “plan of salvation” for mankind. The ad directed viewers to a website,, which is no longer in operation.

The national conversation about what can and can’t be advertised on television has been varied and highly debated. TV ads for tobacco have been banned in 1970 while alcohol commercials continue to be common, especially on sports-focused television.

What do you think? Should religion be allowed in television ads or should this be a “no-go zone” like tobacco ads? Send me your thoughts at

Anna Beahm

Anna Beahm |

I report on the intersection of religion and sexuality in America. Follow me on Twitter @_AnnaBeahm

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