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Christian 'Right' Wants Control Of Your Money

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Christian 'Right' Wants Control Of Your Money

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: December 7, 2005 7:00 pm ET

(New York City) If holiday shopping weren't hard enough, growing numbers of advocacy groups are campaigning to steer shoppers away from certain retailers and products - citing causes from gay rights to getting the word "Christmas" more prominently in the public eye.

These groups come from both the left and right, some urging boycotts of major retail chains, others seeking to influence buyers though company-by-company ratings or critiques of specific products. Some campaigns have little impact; others have prompted swift changes by management, encouraging advocates.

Ford this week announced it was dropping advertising in the gay media, reportedly after the threat of a boycott by the America Family Association (story).

Last weekend another Conservative Christian group, Focus on the Family, announced it was withdrawing its funds from Wells Fargo because of the banks involvement in pro-gay causes. (story)

This year's high-profile targets also include retailers Sears and Target. In the eyes of some conservative activists, the companies have made insufficient use of the word "Christmas" in ads and store signs.

"When you take away 'Christmas' and replace it with a generic term like 'holiday', you take away the very essence of what is being celebrated," said the Mississippi-based American Family Association, which spearheads the Target boycott.

Target Corp., in response, said this week it will make specific references to Christmas and other holidays in its marketing. "Our intention is to make every guest feel welcomed and acknowledged, whether they celebrate Christmas or other holidays at this time of year," Target said.

Target also has been criticized for expanding its long-standing no-solicitation policy last year to bar the Salvation Army from setting up kettles at its stores. This year, Target is providing links on its Web site so customers can donate to the Salvation Army.

Sears, like Target, has been criticized for allegedly sparse use of "Christmas," but the retailer insists the attacks by the California-based Committee to Save Merry Christmas are misplaced. Chris Brathwaite, a Sears Holding Corp. spokesman, said the company has a Christmas greeting on its Internet home page and allows use of "Christmas" at its Sears and Kmart outlets.

"We endeavor to make our stores festive, while respecting that our customers celebrate many different customs throughout the holidays," the company said.

Sears is among the best-rated companies in a different initiative. The Human Rights Campaign, a major gay-rights group, has just issued its first comprehensive buyers' guide, rating companies on such factors as whether they offer domestic-partner benefits and advertise in gay media.

Other companies with perfect scores included Walgreen Co., Microsoft Corp. and booksellers Borders Group Inc. Relatively low scores went to Radio Shack, Rite-Aid and Michigan-based discount chain Meijer Inc., among others.

"We are asking people to shop with equality in mind," the Human Rights Campaign said.

Some companies respond quickly when targeted. Lowe's Cos., for example, apologized and took swift remedial action when complaints arose about outdoor banners advertising "holiday trees."

Karen Cobb, a Lowe's spokeswomen, said the company called the trees "Christmas trees" inside its stores and erred in using different phrasing outdoors.

Walgreen also received complaints for promoting "holiday trees" and agreed that next year's advertising would call them Christmas trees, spokesman Michael Polzin said.

C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, said his company's surveys indicate nearly a quarter of shoppers have noticed fewer Christmas signs at stores, and one-seventh have left stores because employees don't say "Merry Christmas."

"That could be the difference in making a profit," he said. "When Wall Street is looking at every move you make, you've got to worry about the shareholders."

Some boycotts are so wide-ranging that even supporters might not remember every target. Life Decisions International, an anti-abortion group, promotes a boycott of 50 companies that it says support Planned Parenthood; this month it added 15 companies to the list, including Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Circuit City and Price Chopper.

Among the most contentious companies these days is Wal-Mart, assailed by critics for various employment policies. Wake Up Wal-Mart, a group formed by the United Food and Commercial Workers, says it isn't specifically urging a boycott but wants shoppers to ponder whether Wal-Mart deserves their support.

"Our goal is to raise awareness so people reach the conclusion that this company doesn't reflect the best American values," Wake Up Wal-Mart's Chris Kofinis said.

Though the various campaigns are aimed at adults, toys are sometimes involved.

A Massachusetts-based group, Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Environment, has issued a guide to gifts parents should and shouldn't consider for their children. The 'No' list includes toys that lure kids into watching certain TV shows or have violent themes; Lego's Bionicle 3-in-1 Power Gauntlet and Hasbro's G.I. Joe Valor vs. Venom action figures are among those given a thumbs down.

American Girl's popular dolls remain a target of some anti-abortion activists. The Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League has asked that a boycott continue through Christmas because of American Girl's financial support for Girls Inc., a youth group which supports the right to abortion and girls' rights to obtain contraceptives.

American Girl spokeswoman Julie Park said sales figures during the boycott weren't available, but added, "It's been business as usual during this incredibly busy time of year."

©365Gay.com 2005

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These wingers need to get with the times. Not all religions celebrate Christ's birth on December 25th. I have one employee who celebrates early in Januauary.

So where were these groups years ago when Christmas was changed to Xmas? It took several years before the campaign was started to change it.

Edited by TalonRider

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