“Saint Obama” candle

A priest in California is outraged at a novelty store’s large display window of “Saint Obama” candles displaying an image he says “depicts our beloved saints in a not so saintly way.”

The candles feature President Obama’s head atop the body of St. Martin de Porres, a Peruvian-born Dominican friar, who became one of the first black saints in the Americas upon his canonization in 1962.

Rev. Tony La Torre of St. Philip the Apostle Church in San Francisco says the candles, sold by the Just for Fun store for $15, “mock and ridicule the Catholic/Christian faith.”

“I am appalled,” La Torre wrote in a recent parish newsletter, “that in such a family-oriented neighborhood, any retailer would be so bigoted and so hateful (as) to carry such merchandise just to ‘make a buck.'”

Just for Fun owners Robert Ramsey and David Eiland, however, say they’ve done more than “make a buck” – they’ve made thousands.

The store owners told the San Francisco Chronicle that they’ve sold more than 700 of the candles since the Christmas season and have placed an order for 72 more.

In addition to the candles, the Chronicle reports, Just for Fun carries a number of joke religious items, such as Jesus pencil erasers and “Beware of Nunzilla” wind-up toys.

“Believe me, there is a lot of nasty stuff you can sell – you can get it [in San Francisco],” Ramsey told the newspaper. “This is just fun stuff.”

And while La Torre has called for a boycott of Just for Fun, the owners have used Torre’s ire as a springboard for publicity, even posting a copy of the priest’s newsletter in their display window, right next to a 2-foot-tall “Saint Obama” candle.

The candle’s identification with St. Martin de Porres is evident by the broom in Obama’s hand, the traditional image associated with the sainted friar, who began his devotion as a servant boy at the turn of the 17th century.

Like Obama, St. Martin de Porres was born to a white and a black parent, and the friar is considered to be the patron saint of people of mixed racial heritage.


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