US retail behemoth Wal-Mart has filed ten lawsuits against a church since January after its members set up tables outside its stores to seek donations.

The Missionary Church of the Disciples of Jesus Christ revealed that by positioning collectors at the doors of the Wal-Mart discount stores, church coffers can be boosted by about US$15,000 a month. The money is then used to buy aid for the poor, such as food and clothing.

After the arrival of legal documents at the door of the Covina-based church however, the 1,000 strong disciples have branded Wal-Mart a hypocrite. Volunteer missionary Louis Zepeda told the Texas City Sun that the church is being unfairly targeted while the retailer continues to trade in spiritual books and promote family values.

Wal-Mart maintains however that the legal action is a last resort and has nothing to do with the fact that the defendant is a church. The main problem, it argues, is that the church will not abide by the same store guidelines that govern collections by the Salvation Army or the Girl Scouts, for example. They have refused to sign an agreement that details where the collections may be taken and where stalls can be set up.

The cases, which have been consolidated, will be heard soon in San Bernardino County Superior Court.