Toby Talbot  /  AP
Shoppers leave the Wal-Mart store in Bennington, Vt., April 2, 2005. A developer who wants to more than double the size of the Wal-Mart on Northside Drive says he has addressed the town's concerns about his plan. But members of the Development Review Board said at a meeting Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005, that they still need more information before granting approval. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
updated 12/9/2005 9:58:08 AM ET 2005-12-09T14:58:08

W.W.J.S. — Where would Jesus shop?

According to union-backed critics of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., not at the world's largest retailer. on Thursday unveiled a religious-themed campaign Thursday asking shoppers whether God wants them to buy things from the Bentonville, Ark.-based company.

The group, funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, launched a TV ad and released a letter signed by 65 clergy members and religious figures. The group says Wal-Mart's policy over wages, health benefits and other issues harm families and communities.

Wal-Mart accused the group of using union dues to exploit religion and said it would give nearly $200 million in cash contributions to charities this year.

The 30-second TV spot, starting Friday in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas, is part of the latest seasonal-themed campaign against Wal-Mart. The TV ad starts with a picture of a Bible-like tome and an off-screen narrator who says, "Our faith teaches us 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'

"If these are our values, then ask yourself: Should people of faith shop at Wal-Mart this holiday season?"

Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott responded within hours with his own letter laying out what he called Wal-Mart's positive contributions — saving working families money, providing jobs and supporting charities.

"For that reason, we will not be deterred from our mission, despite misleading statements from paid critics whose motives are less than pure," Scott wrote.

"Wal-Mart will continue to do those things that we believe are right for our customers, associates and communities: helping people put food on the table and clothes on their backs; providing good benefits, providing career opportunity, and being a good citizen in the towns we serve," Scott added.

The letter from clergy members urged Wal-Mart to change its business practices.

"Jesus would not embrace Wal-Mart's values of greed and profits at any cost, particularly when children suffer as a result of those misguided values," the letter said.

WakeUpWalMart said it recruited the clergy members, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, from a variety of faiths through its activists, who asked if they would be interested in signing the letter.

The group also plans candlelight vigils at selected Wal-Mart's in 19 states.

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