A PRIEST is taking on the might of the Playboy porn empire by protesting over its logo being emblazoned on products targeted at children in York.

Father Tim Jones, priest in charge of the parishes of St Lawrence and St Hilda, in York, carried out the demonstration at Stationery Box, in High Ousegate, which he said had displayed stationery products with the Playboy logo beside Mickey Mouse and Winnie The Pooh stationery.

Fr Tim, 40, said he encouraged shoppers in the store to sign a petition against "the intrusion of commercial brands such as Playboy into goods and services targeting children", and that five people in the shop signed the petition.

He said: "I told the assistant manager who was on duty at the till that I was going to be launching a protest at the shop, and I went over to where the Playboy material was on the shelf alongside the Winnie The Pooh and Mickey Mouse material, and I started tossing it on the floor away from where people were."

Fr Jones, who is a governor at St Lawrence's CE Primary School, in Heslington Road, said he moved the items on to an empty shelf after the store assistant manager pointed out they were a health and safety hazard on the floor.

The former University of York student said about an hour after the protest began "the group operations director offered to have all Playboy-related material removed from the shelves for the day."

The Stationery Box confirmed yesterday it had removed the product from sale in the store while it reviewed its merchandising policy.

In a statement Fr Jones gave to The Press, he said Playboy was using its brand to market many non-pornographic items, including products aimed at young children.

He said in the statement: "The long-term intention of this strategy is to encourage children to see the Playboy bunny as a friendly child-appropriate brand, preparing them for early commercial acceptance of Playboy pornographic merchandise.

"This constitutes a kind of institutional grooming' of children for their commercial exploitation by the powerful sex industry. This institutional grooming may be indirect but it is not accidental. It is deliberate, intentional, cynical and wicked, and must be resisted."

A spokesman for Stationery Box said: "Because we respect the views of the communities that we trade in, and following Fr Tim's visit, we have removed the product from sale, in this store, while we review our merchandising policy."

A spokesman for Playboy said: "We were surprised to discover that Playboy stationery has been so inappropriately positioned. Playboy's target audience is 18 to 34-year-olds so we clearly did not authorize, nor approve, the placement of our product next to such well known children's characters. Our licensee and its distributor were also unaware of this placement. We will be reviewing this situation immediately."

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