As part of their continuing effort to demonstrate that there is a “war on Christmas” under way in America, Reverend Pat Robertson, Reverend Jerry Falwell, former Republican presidential candidate and MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan, and Weekly Standard executive editor and FOX News Channel host and contributor Fred Barnes have all claimed that Target Corporation has “banned” Salvation Army volunteers from ringing bells and soliciting holiday donations in front of its Target stores.
While conservatives attempt to portray Target's actions as an “anti-Christmas strateg[y]” and an “attack on Christianity,” the following is Target's statement explaining its decision to no longer allow the Salvation Army to solicit in front of their stores:
Target Corporation has a long-standing “no solicitation” policy at all of our stores.
Target has received attention for applying this policy to all groups, including the Salvation Army. We receive an increasing number of solicitation inquiries from nonprofit organizations and groups each year and determined that if we continue to allow the Salvation Army to solicit, then it opens the door to any other groups that wish to solicit our guests. While some of our guests may welcome the opportunity to support their favorite charity or cause, allowing these organizations to solicit means that Target would also have to permit solicitation by organizations whose causes or behavior may be unacceptable to our guests. Target notified the Salvation Army of this decision in January 2004, well in advance of the holiday season, so that the organization would have time to find alternative fundraising sources. Target also asked the Salvation Army to look for other ways we could support their organization under our corporate giving guidelines. At this date, they have not provided a proposal that fits those guidelines.
A December 15 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article quoted Paula Thornton-Greear, a Target spokeswoman, who reiterated Target's policy and noted, “Our key message is we wanted to be fair and consistent.”
Nonetheless, on the December 14 edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, a substantial portion of which was devoted to the so-called “war against Christmas,” Robertson advocated shopping at Wal-Mart instead of Target because Target “is banning the wonderful work of the Salvation Army:”
I think Wal-Mart is a great store that sells things at a low price, and they can match Target on almost everything. So why should you stop at a store that is banning the wonderful work of the Salvation Army with those kettles that raise money to feed the poor and the needy? They do great work and they've never had one breath of scandal in all the time they've been around. They are a tremendous organization. And this is going to cost them something in the neighborhood of nine or ten million dollars. So maybe you could take that out of Target's hide and give it to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart allows the Salvation Army to put out those kettles. So keep that in mind when you do your Christmas shopping, please?
In his December 11 nationally syndicated column titled “The impending death of Christmas?” Falwell noted that "[o]ther anti-Christmas strategies have gained headlines recently," citing as an example that “TARGET will not allow the Salvation Army to collect funds at their stores, meaning that the Army will lost [sic] about $9 million this year.”
In his December 13 nationally syndicated column titled “Christianophobia,” Buchanan wrote:
And this year, again, they [ “nonbelievers” who “hate Christmas” ] are meeting with some success, especially with a business community for whom Christmas has always been about sales volume, not salvation.
Target stores have told the Salvation Army it may no longer station volunteers at store entrances, with their red kettles, and solicit charitable contributions for the poor.
The reason? Says Target, unconvincingly, it is so the company can have a consistent policy of no solicitations outside its stores. But in recent years, the gay lobby has pressured Target to ban the Army because it is Christian and rejects homosexuality as sinful.
And on the November 27 edition of FOX News' The Beltway Boys, host Fred Barnes said:
You know, there's an issue bubbling up outside the Beltway that is finally reaching Washington, that's the furor over Target Stores' decision to ban those Salvation Army people, you know, ringing the bell and stuff, raising money for the poor at Christmas time outside their stores.
And a lot of Christians see this as an attack on Christianity, and they're organizing a boycott, and I don't know about a boycott, but I think they're right. And you have to remember about the Salvation Army, it's not a political organization, it's not a part of the Christian right. It does a lot of good work for the poor.