A Catholic advocacy group has launched a national boycott against Wal-Mart, claiming the world’s No. 1 retailer has in effect “banned” Christmas, while promoting other seasonal holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
But Wal-Mart tells WorldNetDaily it has “absolutely not” banned Christmas, but is just “trying to serve all our customers for the holiday season.”
According to the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the controversy was sparked when a woman recently complained to Wal-Mart that the store was replacing its “Merry Christmas” greeting with “Happy Holidays.”
The League says the woman received an e-mail response from a customer-service representative, reading exactly as follows:
Walmart 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.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue speculated the writer of that e-mail was perhaps drunk, so he sent the response to Dan Fogleman in Wal-Mart’s public-relations department.
Fogleman confirmed the original note was written by a Wal-Mart representative, and he continued:
As a retailer, we recognize some of our customers may be shopping for Chanukah or Kwanzaa 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.
“It’s nice to know that Wal-Mart is closed on a federal holiday,” explains Donohue, who says he’s asking the leaders of 126 religious organizations spanning seven religious communities to boycott the retail giant.
He points out, and WND confirmed, that when using the company’s online search engine, if the word “Hanukkah” is entered, 200 items for sale are returned. The term “Kwanzaa” yields 77. But when “Christmas” is entered, the message returned says: “We’ve brought you to our ‘Holiday’ page based on your search.”
WND screen capture of Wal-Mart website shows when ‘Christmas’ is entered in search engine, results are deferred to a ‘Holiday’ page
However, the search also brings up a secondary link on which to click, which reveals 7,970 items that match the “Christmas” term.
When WND entered the name “Jesus,” 5,668 items were displayed. And when the phrase “War on Christmas” was submitted, the Wal-Mart search engine produced the new book by Fox News Channel host John Gibson, subtitled “How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought.”
“Wal-Mart is practicing discrimination,” Donohue maintains.
But has Wal-Mart “banned” Christmas in any fashion?
“No. Absolutely not,” company spokeswoman Jolanda Stewart said, telling WorldNetDaily that Wal-Mart became aware of the boycott late yesterday. “We already serve a diverse customer base, and we’re just trying to help them to celebrate their individual needs and wants.”
A company news release dated Nov. 1 promoting shopping at this time of year uses the words “holiday” or “holidays” 18 times, without a single mention of Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.
One sentence had the H-word four times:
Based on the theme “Home for the Holidays,” Wal-Mart’s holiday campaign celebrates the holiday style of some of Wal-Mart customers’ favorite celebrities, including Garth Brooks, Destiny’s Child, Martina McBride, Jesse McCartney, and Queen Latifah, each enjoying the holidays at their actual homes.
Garth Brooks among celebrities featured in Wal-Mart’s ‘Home for the Holidays’ campaign
Reaction on Internet messageboards is mixed.
“I am going to walk into Wal-Mart and go tell the manager Merry Christmas and let him or her know I am leaving there empty-handed,” writes one poster.
Another states: “Their policy seems reasonable to me. They’re not banning Christmas, as have other store chains. They’re just going after potential customers who don’t happen to celebrate Christmas. That’s just good business sense.”
Based in Bentonville, Ark., Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer, with over $285 billion in sales, and a workforce of 1.6 million.
As WorldNetDaily has previously reported, the celebration of Christmas is a major cultural battleground in the U.S., dating back to colonial America when Christians in New England outlawed Christmas, saying it was based more on ancient pagan traditions than instruction from the Bible.
In his Pulitzer Prize finalist, “The Battle for Christmas,” historian Stephen Nissenbaum at the University of Massachusetts documents the American development of the holiday now ensconced in popular culture.
“In New England, for the first two centuries of white settlement,” writes Nissenbaum, “most people did not celebrate Christmas. In fact, the holiday was systematically suppressed by Puritans during the colonial period and largely ignored by their descendants. It was actually illegal to celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681 (the fine was five shillings). Only in the middle of the nineteenth century did Christmas gain legal recognition as an official public holiday in New England.”