Boycott Watch
November 17, 2005
Catholic League Boycotts Wal-Mart for Shunning Christmas -
Wal-Mart caves within 24 hours, and
the boycott is officially cancelled, but still lives on.

   The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights ( launched a boycott against Wal-Mart on November 10th not because of a complaint from a member that Wal-Mart stores replaced the term "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays", but because of the reply they received from a Wal-Mart Customer Service Representative regarding the change. The Catholic League posted the Wal-Mart reply to their web site as follows:

   "Wal-Mart is a world wide organization and must remain conscious of this. The majority of the world still has different practices other than 'christmas' which is an ancient tradition that has its roots in Siberian shamanism. The colors associated with 'christmas' red and white are actually a representation of of the aminita mascera mushroom. Santa is also borrowed from the Caucuses, mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide wide world." (The Wal-Mart reply had Christmas in all lower case, as is the double-'of'.)

   The above reply was not only offensive to the Catholic League, but to executives at Wal-Mart as well, who responded:

   "As a retailer, we recognize some of our customers may be shopping for Chanukah or Kwanza gifts during this time of year and we certainly want these customers in our stores and to feel welcome, just as we do those buying for Christmas. As an employer, we recognize the significance of the Christmas holiday among our family of associates.and close our stores in observance, the only day during the year that we are closed."

   This, however, was not satisfying to the Catholic League, especially in the light of the first comment from the Customer Service Department of Wal-Mart, which was not retracted, thus a boycott notice was sent to 126 religious leaders, according to the Catholic League on November 10, 2005.

   In response, Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman released a statement on November 11, 2005 saying, "We sincerely apologize to any person or organization that was offended by the inappropriate and inflammatory comments made by this former associate."

   The Catholic League did not get everything they wanted, as Wal-Mart will continue to use the term 'Happy Holidays' to reflect, as they say, the multiple religions of their customers. That was acceptable to the Catholic League which also recognizes the multitude of religions of their customers and the fact that their boycott was based on the reply by the now-fired customer service representative who sent out the initial missive. The boycott was effective, as the Catholic League accomplished their goals and the boycott ended after about 24 hours.

   The fallout of the situation has had far reaching implications. Despite the boycott being cancelled, many people are upset and still prefer to boycott Wal-Mart with the more basic issue as the reason - Wal-Mart associates will not say Merry Christmas. Oddly enough, the people who claim to be offended by the term Merry Christmas are not the people the original complaint is from or about. Jews of all denominations, for example, are not offended by the term, as Jews recognize this is a Christian country. In general, when someone sees a person clearly identified as being Jewish, they are usually greeted with Happy Hanukah anyhow out or respect. The people most offended by the term Merry Christmas are atheists and agnostics who are offended by religion itself - these people will not be happy regardless what the greeting is because even the term Happy Holidays recognizes a holiday, or holy day.

   Last year, Federated Department Stores reportedly felt the effects financially after refusing to say Merry Christmas and instead saying Happy Holidays. This year, Wal-Mart is walking the same road, but they would have stayed under the radar if one of their CSR's did not try and teach religion to the Catholic League.

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