The latest example of the fine line between business and bias is occurring in Marlboro, NJ, where one of the town's newest merchants, Hobby Lobby, found itself embroiled in a public clash over religious expression and its place in commerce.
The Oklahoma City-based behemoth of bric-a-brac carries just about everything, from burlap lamp shades to mustache stamp sets, but Marlboro residents learned late last week that the retailer, founded by devout Christian David Green, does not sell anything related to the Jewish faith.
"To not offer what your customer wants is problematic from a purely business perspective," said Ann Buchholtz, professor of leadership and ethics at Rutgers Business School.
Basic market research would show customer demand in the Marlboro area for Jewish-themed items, but Buchholtz said it wouldn't be surprising to learn that a company did not cover that basic step of learning the demographic of a new store location.
At Temple Rodeph Torah, Rabbi Donald A. Weber is stressing to congregants to recognize the distinction between discrimination and business practice, he said, because "freedom is messy."