ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A downtown St. Louis grocery store has stirred up concern after installing a crucifix on a wall behind the customer service counter.
Culinaria manager Tom Collora put up the crucifix in view of the new store's checkout registers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Collora says he's worked for the grocery chain for 40 years and has displayed a crucifix at two other Schnucks stores without complaints.
But now some customers are angry about the display.
Lori Weinstock, 40, who is Jewish, said the crucifix startled her enough to write a letter to the Jewish Light newspaper.
"It would have been equally startling if it had been a Star of David or an emblem of another religion," said Weinstock, of University City. "It's grocery shopping, and it should be welcoming to all and exclude none."
Collora said the crucifix "is not meant to promote one faith over another. It's just an opportunity to share a part of myself and my life with people I work hard to serve every day."
Lori Willis, Schnucks communications director, said Collora was the only manager in the chain's 106 stores to have requested to display an article of personal faith.
"Company leaders made a decision to honor that request out of respect for Tom and his faith," Willis said. "In fact, that's part of the reason they put him in charge of Culinaria. He's a man of such strong faith who better to put in a store where so many faiths come together?"
The display shows Jesus Christ nailed to the cross, which is of concern to some of Schnucks' Jewish customers.
The cross bearing Christ's body has become a symbol of the Catholic Church, said Ronald Modras, a theology professor at St. Louis University. A cross without it has become a Protestant symbol, he said.
"The cross is an ambiguous symbol which can mean one thing to one group and another to a different group," Modras said. "And for Jewish people (a crucifix) can mean, 'You are a Christ killer."
Karen Aroesty of the Anti-Defamation League of St. Louis said that despite complaints to her about the display, her organization will not lodge an official complaint with Schnucks.
"After some significant discussion within the Jewish and interfaith communities, we felt this was not a battle that should be pressed right now," Aroesty said.
City resident Thomas Duda said since the company received public funding to build a store, it shouldn't blatantly express a specific religious belief that could be offensive or uncomfortable to some who shop there.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)