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Commentary :: Labor
BTL:Rev. Billy Takes his Gospel of 'Stop Shopping' to Stores that...
27 Dec 2003
Modified: 06:43:19 AM
...Sell Products Produced by Sweatshop Labor. Interview with the Rev. Billy, Church of Stop Shopping, conducted by Between the Lines' Scott Harris
Rev. Billy Takes his Gospel of 'Stop Shopping' to Stores that Sell Products Produced by Sweatshop Labor

Interview with the Rev. Billy, Church of Stop Shopping, conducted by Scott Harris

You may have seen the Rev. Billy at a Starbucks Coffee shop, at a Gap or Disney Store. There, he and his followers engage in a kind of political theater where they preach the gospel of "stop shopping." The "reverend," dressed like a southern preacher of the Billy Graham school, shouts out urgent sermons to unsuspecting patrons about the evils of purchasing products produced by sweatshop labor. Accompanied by a choir attired in flowing robes, a growing flock of Rev. Billy's supporters will distribute flyers describing the plight of workers toiling in oppressive factories or agricultural fields for what amounts to slave wages.

After the initial shock of a Rev. Billy "invasion" has worn off, angry store managers will often call the police, who haul the good reverend off to the police station where he's charged with disturbing the peace or another misdemeanor. Rev. Billy, also known as Bill Talen, is an actor who has engaged in this distinctive brand of street theater for the past five years. When not in New York, the reverend visits Nike, Gap and Starbucks stores in other major U.S. cities, and more recently in Europe.

Bill Talen's book, "What Should I Do If Rev. Billy is in My Store," takes its title from an internal memo distributed by Starbucks to its store managers in New York City. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with the Rev. Billy about his anti-sweatshop, pro-community gospel at the peak of the Christmas shopping frenzy. He was reached in San Francisco just after an earthquake struck and following the government's decision to raise the terrorist threat status from elevated to high, all while officials continue to encourage citizens to keep on shopping.

Visit the the Rev. Billy's website at His book, "What Should I Do If Rev. Billy is in my Store," is published by New Press.

Related links

"Shop Till You Stop," by James Westcott, AlterNet, Dec. 7, 2003

"Slamming Ad Culture," By Marion Wrenn, AlterNet, May 5, 2000

"Interview with the Rev. Billy," Between The Lines April 20, 2002

"Stop the War" Special Report, April 20, 2002, Stop the War at Home and Abroad March in Washington, D.C.

LISTEN to this week's half-hour program of Between The Lines by clicking on one of the links below:
"Between The Lines" is a half-hour syndicated radio news magazine that each week features a summary of under-reported news stories and interviews with activists and journalists who offer progressive perspectives on international, national and regional political, economic and social issues. Because "Between The Lines" is independent of all publications, media networks or political parties, we are able to bring a diversity of voices to the airwaves generally ignored or marginalized by the major media. For more information on this week's topics and to check out our text archive listing topics and guests presented in previous programs visit:
"Between the Lines," WPKN 89.5 FM's weekly radio news magazine can be heard Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. ET; Wednesdays at 8 a.m. ET and Saturdays at 2 p.m. ET (Wednesday's show airs at 7:30 a.m. ET during fundraising months of April and October).
For an email subscription of "Between The Lines Weekly Summary" which features a RealAudio link to the week's program for Between The Lines, send an email to btlsummary-subscribe (at)
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