A Baptist Center for Ethics Christmas campaign urging Wal-Mart to be a “Golden Rule” employer earned mention in Jay Leno’s Friday “Tonight Show” monologue.
“Hey, did you hear about this?” Leno asked. “A controversial new ad by an anti-Wal-Mart coalition features this pastor, this minister, asking the question, would Jesus shop at Wal-Mart?”
“Shop at Wal-Mart?” the comic remarked. “With that name I think he’d be working at Wal-Mart.”
Last year Wal-Mart paid an $11 million settlement to avoid federal charges of hiring illegal immigrants to work at stores in 21 states. It was the largest civil penalty ever for hiring illegal immigrants.
“I think Jesus would be perfect to work at Wal-Mart,” Leno continued, “because think about it, he’s the only one that doesn’t need a health care plan. You see what I’m saying? Or maybe Home Depot; he was a carpenter.”
“I’ll give you an idea of how on-edge employers of illegal immigrants have become,” Leno quipped. “Now instead of saying ‘Welcome to Wal-Mart,’ the elderly greeters pull you aside and go, ‘Pssst, are you a cop?'”
Leno’s monologue was not posted on the “Tonight Show” Web site but is on sale from i-Tunes for $1.99.
About 30 people gathered at a Wal-MartSupercenter in Little Rock, Ark., for one of the vigils.
“Somebody up there’s got a heart, I hope,” James Gardiner of Wake Up Wal-Mart said in an interview with Arkansas CBS affiliate Today’s THV, “and I pray that the Wal-Mart management, upper management, listens to the people.”
“I don’t believe Sam Walton would shop there and support Wal-Mart, the way they treat their employees,” Jim Hepner of Stafford, Va., said at a vigil in Richmond. Hepner told the Richmond Times-Dispatch the late founder of the retail chain “was a family-values man.”
Little Rock protestor Karen Hill said she believed the vigils were making a difference. “We’ve seen a decline in sales at Wal-Mart,” she said, “but the public needs to know that these employees help make a profit for Wal-Mart.”
Last week the BCE and its flagship Web site EthicsDaily.com partnered with WakeUpWalMart.com–a 295,000-member campaign sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union–to challenge Wal-Mart to become a more responsible and moral business.
A pastoral letter signed by 131 evangelical ministers, mostly Baptists, asked Wal-Mart chairman Lee Scott to “make Wal-Mart a Golden Rule company, one that is mindful in reflecting the best of Christian values and one that seeks a higher standard for its employees and their families.”
A television ad aired in 25 states featuring a BCE board member Joe Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., criticizing Wal-Mart’s labor practices and asking shoppers to consider: “Would Jesus Shop at Wal-Mart? Should you?”
On Friday the Louisville Courier-Journal ran an opinion article, in which Phelps explained why he appeared in the commercial. “I accepted the chance to speak to millions of Americans because of my pastoral role of evangelist–one who announces the message of God’s agenda as seen in the life of our Savior, Jesus,” Phelps said in the article, which also appeared on EthicsDaily.com and in a Wake Up Wal-Mart blog.
Progressives weren’t the only Christians criticizing Wal-Mart this weekend. On Saturday Flip Benham of Operation Save America gathered with about 35 supporters outside Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to protest Wal-Mart policies that benefit gay employees and the stocking of Wal-Mart pharmacies with a “morning-after” birth-control pill.
A press release said Wal-Mart “has been blackmailed by the radical homosexual agenda and the abortion industry.”
“Rather than honoring God, Wal-Mart is now promoting homosexual sodomy and the killing of His children,” the release said.
Religious conservatives called off a “Black Friday” boycott of Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving, after the company said it would no longer make corporate contributions to support controversial issues. But Wiley Drake, second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the pledge to remain neutral in the “culture wars” didn’t go far enough.
“As long as you are killing babies with your selling ‘Plan B,’ I will not return to your stores,” Drake said in a letter. “Also as long as you are still a member of the Sodomite Chamber of Commerce I will not return to your store.”
“I could go on but the list is long, and until Wal-Mart repents I will do all I can to keep people out of your stores,” said Drake, a driving force behind the SBC’s 1997 Disney boycott.
Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., said he does not speak for his church or for the Southern Baptist Convention, “but I do speak as a member against what you have done to my brother’s company.”
“Sam is a fine Christian and now in Heaven,” Drake said. “I’ll see him again, and will be glad that I can say, ‘I did all I could to bring Wal-Mart back to the Christian roots you planted.'”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.