Figure To Test How Religion, Retail Mix
PHOENIX — Controversy is swirling over a foot-long, talking Jesus doll that Wal-Mart has put up for sale at more than 400 of its stores in at least 20 states, including some in the Valley.
It’s the first time the world’s largest retailer has carried a full line of religious toys.
The battery-powered, button-activated doll is able to recite a handful of different bible verses and the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes with five loaves and two fish. It also comes with a booklet giving parents tips on how to shape a child’s faith.
Not everyone is lining up to shell out $14.97 for the made-in-China plaything.
“You can learn it at Sunday School,” said shopper Angie Librizzi. “It doesn’t have to be a doll.”
Other shoppers said it trivializes religion. They also believe children will handle the Jesus doll much like they do with secular mass-merchandised action-figures, which they don’t feel is appropriate.
But Mark Linongello, who goes to Catholic Church, said anything telling kids about Christianity is good.
“As a doll, at least they’re getting to know Him,” Linongello said.
The figure is one of several biblical dolls made by Valencia, Calif.-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. and its one2believe unit.
The owner of the company said he started making the doll because he was troubled by a lack of morals and ethics in toys.
He turned to the Internet two years ago and began selling his line directly to church groups.
Retail experts said it’s unclear how big a seller the Jesus doll will turn out to be.
POSTED: 8:52 pm MST November 2, 2007
UPDATED: 11:48 am MST November 4, 2007