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Boycott Is Called Off After Retailer's Apology

November 12, 2005|From Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A Roman Catholic civil rights group called off a boycott of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Friday after the world's largest retailer apologized for an employee's e-mail that called Christmas a mix of world religions.

"This is a sweet victory for the Catholic League, Christians in general and people of all faiths," said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in a statement on the group's website.

Wal-Mart said Thursday that a customer service employee named Kirby had written an inappropriate e-mail to a woman who complained that the retailer had replaced a "Merry Christmas" greeting with "happy holidays." The company, based in Bentonville, Ark., also said Kirby no longer worked for Wal-Mart.

Kirby wrote that Christmas resulted from traditions such as Siberian shamanism and Visigoth calendars.

"Santa is also borrowed from the [Caucasus], 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," Kirby wrote.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman said the e-mail -- sent without review by other employees -- did not represent Wal-Mart's policies.

He said employees would continue to wish people "happy holidays" because the greeting was more inclusive.

Donohue of the Catholic League said the practice, although "dumb," was never part of his group's complaint.

"We only trigger boycotts when we've been grossly offended," he said.

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