The Mix

Wal-Mart Apologizes to Christmas-Shopping Christians

Accused of "banning Christmas," the retailer responds within nano-seconds.
Ok, so we liberals have been saying that Wal-Mart is not responsive, but perhaps we have been wrong all along. While Wal-Mart may not care about its sweatshop workers, pay its employees enough, provide decent healthcare, follow environmental laws, or allow women to be promoted, I am happy to report that it does care about Christmas.

You see, earlier this week, the Catholic League of Religious and Civil Rights accused Wal-Mart of discriminating against Christians and attempting to "ban Christmas." The controversy began when a woman -- one, lone customer -- complained that the stores were displaying signs that read "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" and it was discovered that Wal-Mart's website listed Christmas decorations under the category "holidays."

So, the Catholic League did what every Christian group has done when it gets upset -- it raised a ruckus and called for a boycott. Here is the League's call for a boycott from Nov. 9th:
A woman who recently complained to Wal-Mart that the store was replacing "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays" received an e-mail response from Customer Service. It appears below in its exact form:
"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."
To which Catholic League President Bill Donohue says: "This statement was signed by someone called Kirby. When I read it, I thought he might be drunk. But I was wrong. We sent Kirby's response to Wal-Mart's headquarters only to find that Dan Fogleman, Senior Manager, Public Relations, agrees. After acknowledging that he read Kirby's response, Fogleman said, in part, the following":
"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."
Bill Donohue says: "It's nice to know that Wal-Mart is closed on a federal holiday. Now here is why I am asking the leaders of 126 religious organizations that span seven religious communities to boycott Wal-Mart. Go to its website and search for Hanukkah and up come 200 items. Click on Kwanzaa and up come 77. Click on Christmas, and here's what you get: 'We've brought you to our 'Holiday' page based on your search.' In other words, Wal-Mart is practicing discrimination."
Yesterday, Donahue told the Associated Press that said he thought Wal-Mart's statement about respecting multiple beliefs was ''corporate arrogance'' and warned that, ''If Wal-Mart, which is the family-friendly institution, gets away with this, then all the other department stores will just fall into line.''

Today, less than two days after the boycott began, Wal-Mart responded by publicly apologizing, firing the customer service employee who sent the "pagan" email, and changing its website so that "Christmas" has its own page.

Donahue's response: "This is a sweet victory for the Catholic League, Christians in general, and people of all faiths." (Uh, what? Why would "people of all faiths" give a crap about whether or not the sign says Merry Christmas?)

Donahue added, "It means that Wal-Mart can now enter the Christmas season without this cloud hanging over it." (Whew! That was a close call... I was worried the boycott might put a damper on my Christmas spending binge!)

Seriously, though, wouldn't it be wild if Wal-Mart were as responsive to its millions of employees as it has been to one customer and a handful of self-righteous Christians?
Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.