In January 2016, a piece began circulating on social media holding that a 17-year-old Christian boy had stood his ground in a Scheels (not "Shield's") sporting goods and entertainment chain store outlet in St. Cloud, Minnesota, when he was allegedly asked to cover his "offensive" cross by a hijab-clad Muslim cashier:
The following is a TRUE story of something that happened over the holidays that will really make you think & it could happen to any of us. (I heard it in my Bible study class this morning)
A young 17 yr. old boy was shopping in St. Cloud at a sports store, called Shields.
The cashier was a muslim lady who was wearing her headscarf. The 17 yr. old was wearing a necklace with a cross on it. She told him he would have to put his cross under his shirt because it offended her. He told her would not do that. Then he told her that he thought she should take her headscarf off. She then called for the manager. The manager came out & told the 17 yr. old to just put his cross under his shirt and everything would be fine. The boy again refused to do so & at that point he left the items he had intended to purchase & walked out. Several customers who had been in line behind him had heard the conversation & also left their carts full of items & walked out of the store!!
I SAY KUDOS TO THE 17 YR. OLD!!! We all know we are in some very changing times, & given the same circumstances, I pray we would all have the courage this young lad had.
Our Bible class spent a few minutes talking about the challenge we are facing for our first amendment right of religious freedom.
(I have to wonder what’s next?? Are they going to try to ban the jewelry store owners from selling any jewelry with a cross on it?????)
Please pass on, & be ready to defend your religious rights!
God bless you, & God bless America
This narrative bore a striking similarity to a prolific urban legend about a similarly angry hijab-wearing cashier and a customer with a flag pin, various versions of which circulated as early as 2003.
We attempted to locate a "Shield's" store in the area of St. Cloud, Minnesota, but found only a retailer of similar description called "Scheels." We contacted the Scheels location in question and spoke with a manager, who immediately recognized the rumor to which we were referring. He maintained that the narrative was completely fabricated and advised us that prior to the "Shield's" version of the story, the same story had been attached to a local Walmart.
The St. Cloud Times also published a fact check article which referenced an "alleged incident at a St. Cloud Wal-Mart that [had] been widely shared" on Facebook, noting that:
The poster said her friend was shopping at a Wal-Mart store in St. Cloud while wearing a cross necklace. When she went to pay, the clerk — a Somali woman — told her she had to remove the cross before she would check her out. The woman refused and asked for a manager. The manager told her she had to remove the cross to go through that checkout line. The poster wrote that the woman left her groceries and walked out.
"What ever happened to a free country. What ever happened to Christianity?????? We are unable to believe in Christ or our religion!!!" the poster wrote.
The post was shared on Facebook thousands of times, with many commenters expressing outrage. However, there seems to be no evidence that the incident actually happened.
The St. Cloud Times contacted both St. Cloud-area Walmarts and eventually made contact with Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg. Lundberg told the newspaper that the chain had learned of and investigated the claim but ultimately deemed it unfounded:
"We looked into the situation as soon as we learned of the allegations," Lundberg said. "While we’ve asked our cashiers and management about this, we’ve been unable to verify that this happened at all. We’ve been working to identify the actual customer making these claims.”
Lundberg said Wal-Mart officials even reviewed surveillance video of the two St. Cloud stores, but it can't find evidence that the event occurred. Such an action by a store employee would violate company policy, he said.
We also contacted Walmart to inquire whether any further information about the rumor had emerged but did not receive a reply by publication time.