These shoes not made for selling, say Danish Christians

May 20, 2003

A Danish supermarket chain has withdrawn from sale of sandals featuring images of Jesus and Mary, after an outcry from Danish Christian groups.

The sandals went on sale on May 12 in the Kvickly chain which has branches throughout Denmark. But on May 14, in the face of protests against the pictures on the sandals' upper soles, the chain's owners, Coop Denmark, stopped selling the footwear. The supermarket chain received more than 200 complaints from members of Denmark's Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

'We Catholics pray to Jesus and Mary and now they want us to walk all over them,' said Johannes Gram Kulis, a priest at the Vordingborg parish south of Copenhagen, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported. 'That's blasphemy and a serious and indecent violation of the religious sentiments of believers.'

Feelings about the sandals ran so high that in the university town of Aarhus members of a Christian group destroyed several pairs.

'It was never our intention to offend people's beliefs, but apparently that was the case, and we were surprised by the scale of these protests,' the chain's spokesperson, Jens Nielsen, told journalists. 'Some priests claimed that people would step on Jesus and the Virgin Mary when wearing the sandals.'

The reaction to the sandals going on sale surprised many commentators because Denmark is said to be one of the most secularized societies in the world. Still, those who did buy one of the 4000 pairs of sandals sold before they were withdrawn appear to have acquired an investment. The sandals are now said to have doubled in value.

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