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CULTURE DIGEST: Organizers say Target boycott was successful; Falwell joins Liberty Counsel’s fight for Christmas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–An endeavor to send Target and other major retail chains a message is being considered a success by Christians who took offense at the store’s refusal to allow the phrase “Merry Christmas” to be used in their in-store promotions and retail advertising this year.

The American Family Association launched a boycott against Target Nov. 18, asking Americans to refrain from shopping at the popular discount store during Thanksgiving — the biggest shopping weekend of the year.

Within three days of the launch, nearly 300,000 people had signed a petition online at www.afa.net, saying they would stand up to Target and not purchase items at the store, which last year made a controversial decision not to allow Salvation Army kettles to be placed outside the front door.

“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,” Randy Sharp, director of special projects for AFA, said in a news release. “Shoppers are growing disgruntled by companies that are choosing to do away with a simple greeting like ‘Merry Christmas,’ and they are showing it with their pocketbooks.”

Don Wildmon, president of AFA, noted in a letter on the organization’s website that Target’s stock dropped 7 percent in November, and he credited Christians who were offended by store’s dismissal of Christmas as having something to do with the change.

“Target’s ban of the Salvation Army and ‘Merry Christmas’ expresses the same attitude toward Christianity as that held by Michael Newdow, who wants to ban ‘In God We Trust’ from our currency and ‘under God’ from our Pledge of Allegiance,” Wildmon wrote.

AFA planned to send copies of the Target petition to other major chains that are banning the use of “Merry Christmas,” including Costco, Wal-Mart, Sears, K-Mart and Kohl’s.

“It is basically too late to change their policies this year, but we can change it for next year. Last year we called for a boycott of Federated Stores because they banned ‘Merry Christmas.’ This year they are using ‘Merry Christmas!’” AFA said, referring to a statement by Federated Department Stores listing the ways they are accommodating Christians this year, including using the word “Christmas” in their 2005 holiday television advertising jingle and giving the display windows in their flagship Macy’s Herald Square store in New York the theme “Christmas Time in the City.”

MORE CHRISTMAS CONTROVERSY — The American Family Association gathered advertising inserts from 11 different companies placed in two newspapers on the Sunday after Thanksgiving to survey the mention of Christmas, President Don Wildmon said in a letter to AFA members.

The inserts were taken from the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, two newspapers circulated near the association’s Tupelo, Miss., headquarters, and they totaled 280 pages, Wildmon said.

Of the 11 companies, only one — the McRae’s/Belks department store — had a reference to “Christmas,” AFA found, and it was only mentioned twice by that chain. The other 10 companies did not mention “Christmas” even once, opting instead to use the word “holiday” 59 times.

AFA listed the other 10 companies as Target, Kroger, Office Max, Walgreens, Sears, Staples, Lowe’s, J.C. Penney, Dell and Best Buy.

Lowe’s, however, subsequently notified AFA that it will use the words “Christmas Trees,” AFA reported in a Nov. 29 news release.

“These retailers are willing to use Christmas to secure about 20 percent of their yearly sales, but they absolutely refuse to mention the Reason for the season,” Wildmon noted.

So AFA is starting another petition drive, asking Americans to sign a letter which will be sent to every national retailer that bans “Christmas,” asking them to change their policy. More than 425,000 have signed the petition, and the goal is 1 million.

FALWELL DEFENDS CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION — Jerry Falwell is speaking up against those who claim Christmas has no part in holiday celebrations by joining the “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign” led by Liberty Counsel, which will sue anyone who tries to ban Christmas from schools and other public places, according to the San Francisco Chronicle Nov. 22.

“In many public venues, and in our schools and workplaces, many Americans have discovered that they are not permitted to erect Christmas decorations, exchange Christmas cards or sing Christmas carols,” Falwell noted.

So the 8,000 members of the Christian Educators Association International will be on the lookout for school administrators who attempt to stop teachers from observing the traditional holiday in their classrooms. Liberty Counsel is prepared with 750 pro bono lawyers ready to stand for freedom of speech, the Chronicle said.

Falwell is urging pastors, churches and individuals to purchase ads in newspapers across the country standing up for Christmas.

“We need to draw a line in the sand and resist bullying tactics by the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the American Atheists and other leftist organizations that intimidate school and government officials by spreading misinformation about Christmas,” he said.

Another conservative legal group, the Alliance Defense Fund, is offering 800 attorneys in a similar fashion as part of the Christmas Project with the slogan “Merry Christmas. It’s OK to say it.”

“It’s a sad day in America when you have to retain an attorney to say ‘Merry Christmas,’” Mike Johnson, an ADF attorney in Louisiana, told the Chronicle.

FIRST U.S. ARABIC CHRISTIAN CHANNEL AIRS — The first Christian television channel with programming in Arabic debuted in October and has already been credited with leading several people to Christ, according to a report by The Washington Times Nov. 26.

Alkarma, Arabic for “the vineyard,” is based in Southern California and was founded by an Egyptian-born businessman seeking to provide solid biblical teaching and programs for the family. He invested $200,000 to purchase air time and equipment for the 24-hour channel, The Times said, and he needs about $40,000 a month to keep it going. So far total contributions have reached about $10,000 per month.

“I know this is a great station, and we are doing more productions,” Samuel Estefanos said. “We are seeking to build a good foundation so we can grow more. I believe God will provide and we’ll keep on going.”

The station has seen measurable success thus far, as 10 to 15 calls come in each day from Arabic speakers with Muslim surnames who are curious about why Alkarma would give away a movie called the “Jesus” film and other materials, The Times said.

“Some of them call and say they are Muslims and need to know more about Christ,” Estefanos said. “Other people are Christians but say they don’t know anything about Christ. In the Middle East, even if your religion says ‘Christian’ on your identity card, that does not mean that you know Christ.”

Though other Arabic channels exist in the United States, this is the first to run explicitly Christian content. Alkarma currently reaches about a million Arabic speakers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, The Times said.

“It’s great. Some people call us and cry on the phone. They say, ‘We knew Christ through this channel.’ People send us e-mails and leave phone messages,” Estefanos said.

For more information, visit www.alkarmatv.com.

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  • Erin Curry