Upset by Target’s decision to ban Salvation Army‘s red kettles from its retail stores, the National Clergy Council — more than 5,000 conservative Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant church leaders — is pressing the company for a meeting with its CEO and chairman, Bob Ulrich.

The NCC says the outcome of the meeting will determine whether it calls on “people of faith” to boycott Target.

“The Salvation Army’s red kettles are a powerful part of the true meaning of Christmas,” said the NCC’s president, Rev. Rob Schenck. “They provide a means for holiday shoppers to give a Christmas gift to the less fortunate and those in need.”

Schenk contends Target’s decision “sends an unmistakable message of hostility toward people and organizations of Christian faith.”

“For more than 100 years, the Salvation Army has demonstrated itself to be a trustworthy charitable organization,” he said. “Yet now the retail giant, Target Corporation, has publicly questioned the Salvation Army’s place in our nation’s Christmas traditions.”

Schenk, describing the Salvation Army as a “humble, servant-minded organization,” said the group will not defend itself, “but we will.”

Target announced its decision earlier this year, but criticism began mounting only last month when shoppers noticed the absence of the distinctive bell ringers.

Christian lobby groups such as Concerned Women for America and the American Family Association have warned that the retail giant could lose customers.

“For Target to say that the Salvation Army is no longer welcome at the inn should send a message to Christians that perhaps they’d like to do their shopping elsewhere,” said Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America.

The American Family Association is urging its supporters to consider alternatives such as Wal-Mart, where the Salvation Army is welcome.

Target spokeswoman Paula Thornton-Greear told WorldNetDaily that like most retailers, the company has a long-standing no-solicitation policy.

“If we continue to allow the Salvation Army to solicit, it would open the door to other groups,” she said.

There are many worthy organizations, Thorton-Greear emphasized, and “we want to be fair and consistent.”

She insisted the decision “in no way diminishes our outreach effort to community,” pointing out an average of $2 million is given each week to neighborhoods and schools.

The Target spokesman also contended the policy is not about avoiding controversy.

“This decision came about because of an increasing number of inquiries” from groups wanting to solicit, she said.

The Salvation Army says last year it raised about $9 million from its ringers at Target stores across the nation.

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