A traditional-values organization says nearly 300,000 people have signed its online petition calling for a boycott of Target stores during the launch of the Christmas shopping season this weekend.

The American Family Association wants shoppers to avoid the retailer during the most important shopping weekend because of its continuing ban on Salvation Army bell ringers and shunning of the phrase “Merry Christmas” in in-store promotions and advertising.

After three days, AFA said, the petition is being signed at a rate of about 4,000 people an hour, said Randy Sharp, the group’s director of special projects.

“Target’s decision to do away with ‘Merry Christmas’ and Salvation Army bell ringers has made them an easy bull’s-eye for people who are fed up with politically correct retailers,” Sharp said.

As WorldNetDaily reported, a boycott of Target was organized last year in response to its banning of the Salvation Army’s traditional red-kettle solicitors. Christian activists believe Target made the move to appease the homosexual community. The retailer is a contributor to homosexual causes, and the Salvation Army has traditionally opposed the “gay” agenda.

WND broke the story last week that the Catholic League launched a boycott of Target competitor Wal-Mart for, in effect, “banning” Christmas, while promoting other seasonal holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Within a day, Wal-Mart changed its website to put Christmas on an equal footing with other holidays when using the search engine and fired a staff member who sent an e-mail to a customer saying the origins of Christmas are pagan.

Wal-Mart, too, has dumped the “Merry Christmas” greeting in favor of “Happy Holidays.”

The AFA’s Sharp said shoppers “are growingly disgruntled by companies that are choosing to do away with a simple greeting like ‘Merry Christmas,’ and they are showing it with their pocketbooks.”

He said that when Target publicly warned shareholders last week that sales projections were not looking good, the company’s stock price immediately took a 7 percent tumble.

“If Target doesn’t want to wish me a Merry Christmas, that’s fine. I’ll do my part to make sure they don’t have a profitable one,” Sharp said.

He said AFA plans to send a copy of the Target boycott petition to other major retailers, “reminding them Christmas comes once a year, just in case they forget.”

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