Religious groups representing millions of evangelical Christians are calling for a boycott of retail giant Target to protest its recent decision to prohibit the Salvation Army from collecting charitable donations with their signature red kettles outside Target stores. The company said it decided that it could no longer make the Salvation Army the sole exception to its rule against solicitation at stores. But the far-right groups are claming that the Minneapolis-based retailer has bowed to pressure from gay rights groups that are upset with the Salvation Army's refusal to offer benefits to employees' domestic partners.
The boycott "puts us in a weird position," Maj. George Hood, a spokesman for the Alexandria, Va.-based Salvation Army, told The Washington Post. Although nearly one tenth of the $90 million the Salvation Army earned last year during its holiday appeal came from kettles at Target stores and although it is an evangelical Christian organization, Hood said the group does not support the boycott. "We do not want to be the facilitator or be the source of any boycotts of Target or any negative assault against Target," Hood told the Post. "They've made a business decision that we have to respect and move on."
But such groups as the Concerned Women for America, the American Family Association, the Christian Defense Coalition, and the National Clergy Council have taken up the cause and are calling on their members to abstain from shopping at Target this Christmas season. "It's wrong to kick them out," Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, a 2.3 million-member Mississippi organization that has led boycotts against companies advertising on racy TV shows, told the Post. "This is a tragedy."
The National Clergy Council recently asked its 5,000 clergy members and 30,000 lay members to call on their congregations and others to stop shopping at Target, an effort it has dubbed "Operation Teach-Scrooge-a-Lesson." Protests have been organized at Target stores, and a few ministers have taken to their pulpits to preach against the retailing chain, which operates 1,313 stores nationwide.
Lena Michaud, a spokeswoman for the retailer, said the company was getting increasing requests from other groups that also wanted to solicit money at the stores. "It's not that we don't support" the Salvation Army, said Michaud, who noted that Target donates about $100 million a year to charities. "We just want to support them in a way that doesn't involve solicitation on store property."