The Rev. Jay Hurley walked down Aisle 12 of Food Lion in Hagerstown, Md., last week and reached for Cottonelle toilet paper instead of his usual brand. Buying White Cloud, he believed, would involve him in Devil worship.

"I didn't buy Folger's coffee either; I'm going to replace that brand with Nestle's," said Hurley, pastor of the Greenbrier Baptist Church in Boonsboro.

Hurley is one of thousands of Americans who continue to boycott Procter & Gamble products, convinced, beyond any measure of logic, that the corporation's president is in league with the Devil. Currently, fliers are circulating in rural Maryland, among other places, listing the allegedly damnable P&G products.

Since 1980, P&G's moon and stars logo has been the focus of one of the most bizarre controversies in American business: persistent reports that it is a satanic symbol. Despite vigorous denials and P&G's recent decision to change its corporate symbol, talk of Devil worship lingers.

Hurley said an Army chaplain friend gave him a copy of the flier several weeks ago. He distributed copies to his 70-member congregation. A copy hangs on the church bulletin board just inside the door.

The flier, headlined "The Phil Donahue Show," states that on March 1, 1991, P&G's president appeared on "Donahue" and announced that he was "coming out of the closet" about his financial support for the Church of Satan. "He stated that a large portion of the profits from Proctor {sic} & Gamble products goes to the support of the church," the flier says. Then Donahue, it continues, asked the P&G president whether his ties with Satanism would hurt business.

"There are not enough Christians in the U.S. to make a difference," he's quoted as telling a nationwide television audience.

On March 1, 1991, no one representing P&G, let alone its president, appeared on "Donahue." In some parts of the country, viewers of the program watched a taped show headlined "Families of Hostages: Lebanon, Iraq and Vietnam." The other program aired that day was "How to Cheat on Your Spouse and Not Get Caught."

And yet P&G public relations is having a fiendish time convincing the public.

"It's poppycock," said P&G spokesman Terry Loftus from company headquarters in Cincinnati.

Asked if John Pepper, president of the conglomerate, would comment, an exasperated Loftus replied, "Why would our president want to comment on balderdash? It's a lie! A ridiculous lie!"

So many calls have flooded "Donahue" headquarters in New York that staffers set up a voice-mail answering system that advises, "If you are calling about Procter & Gamble, press 6 now. ... The president of Procter & Gamble has never ever appeared on the 'Donahue' show. If your family and friends say they've seen it, they are quite mistaken."

Given the conspiratorial mind-set of Satan-rumormongers, the choice of "6" on the touch-tone phone may prove unfortunate. The supposed appearance of the numerals 666 in the logo has fueled the slur campaign. The Bible's book of Revelation links 666 with the Devil.

The three seemingly inverted 6s are actually beard curls on a man-in-the-moon face that has been part of the corporate emblem since 1851. The stars represent the 13 original colonies.

P&G grudgingly removed its famous trademark from product packages in 1985, hoping to exorcise the Beelzebub rumor. But the symbol remained in use on corporate stationery, awards and company buildings.

Last week, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that P&G, the nation's largest maker of household products with $24.1 billion in sales, is redesigning its logo.

It is eliminating the beard curls.

Company officials told The Washington Post there's absolutely no connection between the redesign and the reemergence of the rumors.

The new moon-face has a straight beard, rather than a curly one. The company adopted the straight beard to give the logo "a friendlier, modern, global look," said Anne Jenneman Smith, a P&G spokeswoman.

The "Donahue" flier distributed by Hurley urges Christians to search the beard curls on the logo for the Devil's mark when they go shopping. The boycott plea lists 49 P&G products, including Head & Shoulders, Pampers, Pepto-Bismol and Ivory Snow. None of those products bears the logo anymore.

On the last Sunday in June, Hurley entered his small, wooden Baptist church at the top of a grassy hill. He stepped up to the pulpit and shared his revelation about P&G.

"Before the service I read {the flier} to my congregation. I made copies of it and asked them to take the copy with them to the store," Hurley said. "I asked them not to buy those products."

The worshipers were surprised. But everyone took a flier. Several passed the word to their neighbors.

"If it is true, I hope the boycott grows. It's time to take a stand," Hurley said. "The Bible speaks against Devil worship."

For George Snyder, the deacon at Greenbrier Baptist Church, "it hurt" last week when he stopped off at 7-Eleven and had to pick out a new brand of soap.

"I was born and raised on Ivory soap. I have sensitive skin and it's a good product. But it was a slap on the face when that gentleman was preaching Devil worship and said there weren't enough Christians to make a difference," Snyder said after church services yesterday. "We are Christians, and we can make a difference."

But when a reporter told him that nobody from P&G ever appeared on the show, Snyder said, "Uhhh ... that's a different story."

Snyder said the rumor already had spread to the nearby Bethel Assembly of God Church. He said Hurley would have to publicly retract the slander.

"Our pastor presented it to us. And if a person of trust presents something to you, you believe it," Snyder said.

The P&G smear campaign began in 1980 with a story, spread primarily in southern Minnesota, that the moon and stars logo indicated the company had been taken over by devotees of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.

The linkage to Old Scratch soon emerged -- oddly enough, with a report that a company official appeared on "Donahue" to confess his collusion with demonic forces. The tale peaked in 1982, 1985 and again in 1990.

In 1985 P&G hired Pinkerton Inc. and Wackenhut Corp. to track down the rumor's source. The company continues to distribute tens of thousands of anti-rumor kits, including a history of the company logo and supportive letters from the "Donahue" show ("It never happened! Anyone who claims to have seen such a broadcast is lying! Anyone repeating the rumor is bearing false witness!") and the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham.

Falwell issued this statement to The Post: "The people who have spent much of the past six years attacking Proctor {sic} & Gamble for its corporate logo could make better use of their time fighting real and serious problems in our society."

The continuing rumor forced P&G to reestablish a toll-free hot line (800-331-3774) last year to field calls on the subject. Operators handled about 350 calls per day in 1990. The current average is 50 inquiries a day.

The company has filed and settled 14 libel lawsuits against individuals it believes have spread the rumor, including an Atlanta television weatherman and four distributors of Amway products. In March, P&G won a $75,000 judgment against James and Linda K. Newton, two Amway distributors in Parsons, Kan. The ruling prohibits the couple from spreading statements associating the company with Satanism.

Reached at his home, James Newton said, "I am not allowed to talk about the subject."

Paul Martin of Orlando, Fla., said he first heard the story in 1985 while working as director of the high school club division of the Youth for Christ office in Willmar, Minn.

"These three brothers from the Zion Christian Life Center -- Dan, Steve and Jim Peters -- came to speak to my boys to tell them to burn their rock music albums," Martin said. "They showed a slide of the Procter & Gamble symbol and said it was the same as the Church of Satan in Minnesota."

Martin remains undecided about the accusation. "I felt like rock music was doing more damage on kids than a product symbol," he said.

The flier also reached an insurance company in Frederick. Nancy -- who works there and asked that her last name not be disclosed because she fears reprisals from co-workers -- saw the phony "Donahue" notice hanging in a colleague's cubicle.

"I told this girl -- and she was a college grad -- I liked the cartoon on her wall, and she said, 'Well, read that,' " Nancy said. "I'm generally easygoing, but when I read {the flier}, I reacted in a hostile manner." The woman pointed to the next cubicle where another boycott notice was posted, Nancy said.

"And she said angrily, 'Don't you believe it?' "