Forever 21, a clothing store for fashionable men and women on a budget, is accused of pushing a strong religious agenda, with the launch of its new graphic tees that feature strong Christian themes such as Jesus, God and prayer.
The collection of T-shirts are embellished with holy slogans that include: "Love," "Jesus ♥ You," "Holy," "Jesus ♥ Me," "God," and "Three Words to Live by: Prayer, faith, and trust" are a few of the shirts found in the new line.
Rachel Kane recently criticized the fashion store in her satirical blog, "WTFOREVER 21," for "going Holy balls to the wall with tops that have what reads like scripture on them."
The cropped, oversized, and sleeveless tees that retail for around $14 are targeted to the brand's teenage customers.
Forever 21 is run by the Chang family, devout Christians, who, according to Business Week, have hopes to one day devote themselves fully to the church.
Their Christian beliefs are reflected on the store's shopping bags which have the words "John 3:16," printed on them – referring to the Bible verse, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Style trends mixed with religious symbolism is nothing new to the fashion world. Celebrities like Madonna, whose career is heavily influenced by Christian iconography, and the Jonas brothers who wore "purity rings" to declare their belief in abstinence, are prime examples of this blending.
However, Kane believes that Forever 21 has crossed the line with their new offering. She acknowledged that the store has a strong disposition for using crosses throughout their clothing and accessory designs, which normally didn't bother her, but found the store's new line "preachy."
According to Kane, the T-shirts "jumped out" at her and said, "You are no longer in a store. Welcome to the Sunday morning service you did not sign up for. Now get to prayin' sinner!"
"So, how do you feel about this? Are you alright shopping for deals with a side of Lord and Savior or do you believe in separation of Church and Style?" Kane asked her readers.
The Aug. 5 blog post sparked debate on whether Forever 21 owners have a right to reflect their faith through the Christian-themed T-shirts or whether they inappropriately tried to "sell" their religion.
"I don't get the uproar. If their clothes offend you, don't shop there. They won't miss your business," said one commenter known as "RYE."
Another blog reader who posted under the name "Christine" said that though she identifies with the Christian community, she didn't believe the clothes should be used in that way.
"Yeah, the one saying PRAY a thousand times and even the one that just says GOD is just not right I definitely would never try shoving my faith down someone's throat, be it by word of mouth or word of shirt," she wrote.
One commenter defended the Forever 21 owners when another reader asked whether it was a general rule that companies keep religion and work separate.
"Keeping work and religion separate? It depends what your work is," wrote commenter "Bob Roberts."
"If you work for a Christian-owned fashion store that has owners who like to sell Christian-themed clothing, then no, it's not a general rule."
After hearing the controversy from another fashion blog, Her Goody Bag blogger Janique gave her take on the debate.
"Many say that F21 is trying to sell religion, well guess what, purchasing the shirt is optional. You do not walk in the stores and they force you to by the Jesus loves Me tee," she wrote in a blog post Friday.
"There are too many believers afraid to speak up about their relationship with God because they fear what others may believe," added Janique.
"Well I personally am not afraid. If you can glorify MTTM and Dimepiece with their vulgar tees and buy tees with political agendas, homosexuality, or Buddhism, then I can praise Jesus with mine, which is why I wore my 'Love, Peace, Faith, Hope, Jesus' Tank yesterday."
Forever 21 was founded in 1984 and has store branches throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia.