Jesus and Mary" sandals cause a scandal in Denmark

A supermarket chain in Denmark has sparked an outcry by selling flip-flop sandals featuring images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, with a local Catholic parish filing charges against the store for blasphemy.

"We Catholics pray to Jesus and Mary and now they want us to walk all over them. That's blasphemy and a serious and indecent violation of the religious sentiments of believers," said Johannes Gram Kulis, second-in-charge at the parish in Vordingborg, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Copenhagen.

He urged the Coop chain, which owns the Kvickly store selling the flip-flops, to withdraw the offending items from their shelves.

Representatives from the Danish state church, the Lutheran Protestant Church, also agreed that the footwear was offensive.

"This is equivalent to wiping your behind with the image of Jesus. It's horrible," a protestant minister from Odense in central Denmark said.

On Monday, Christian demonstrators of Middle Eastern origin stormed one of the chain's stores and destroyed the "flip-flops of shame" that they said "trample all over" their faith.

A Coop spokesman, Jens Juel Nielsen, said the chain was "surprised" at the scale of the protests, and had no plans to withdraw the flip-flops, which sell for 40 kroner (5.40 euros, 6.20 dollars).

"We had no ulterior motive, religious or otherwise, in selling the flip-flops and we do not understand why this led some people to boil over," Nielsen said.

He stressed that Coop "found the religious motifs, which were very beautiful to the eye and very trendy, in London and decided to manufacture in the Far East a summer collection with T-shirts and sandals featuring the motifs."

Coop defended its decision to continue selling the flip-flops.

"We are following the situation daily, but we feel that it is a minority that is protesting, while a large majority of our clients make no religious interpretation and are buying our flip-flops," Nielsen said.

"Our intention was never to offend people's beliefs, but we cannot accept to just fold because of the protests of a minority, who in addition commit acts of vandalism against our products and trouble our other customers," he said.