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Dallas Church Rats Out Stores That Say 'Happy Holidays.' But Who's the Real Grinch?

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A prominent Texas church, First Baptist of Dallas, has sparked controversy with an online "naughty-or-nice" list that allows congregants to target stores that wish customers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," in the hope that Christian consumer buying power can remind retailers of the reason for the season.

"Too many businesses have bowed down to political correctness," the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist, told The Dallas Morning News. "I thought this would be a fun way to call out businesses that are refusing to celebrate Christmas."

The website, which launched this week, has a "Naughty" list for stores whose signs and employees say "Happy Holidays" and a "Nice" roster of those places that use "Merry Christmas."

To be sure, it's a novel tactic in the annual "War on Christmas" that is fought every December. But whether "fun" accurately describes the campaign may depend on whether your store makes the "naughty" list or the "nice" list, or whether you are a Christian who thinks commercialism -- or Christ -- should be the focus of Christmas.

Indeed, the website Jeffress set up is called GrinchAlert.com, after the beloved Dr. Seuss book, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" But the point of that tale -- spoiler alert! -- is that the Grinch couldn't steal Christmas by making off with all the presents because Christmas was about the spirit of the season, rather than the material things associated with it.

"The appropriate thing for Christians to do at this time of year is to find new and more effective ways to extend the love and peace of the season to others, not to insist that such enterprises as commercial businesses put up Christmas trees," William Lawrence, dean of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, told The Morning News.

Dallas is increasingly diverse, ethnically and religiously, and insisting that stores -- even those that may be operated by non-Christians -- maintain a "Christmas-only" greeting policy could be bad for business as well as not terribly neighborly, or reflective of the various religious celebrations during December.

There is also the ethical problem of promoting an open-source, unmoderated list of "bad" stores in an era when the Internet can spread information like a prairie fire -- whether it's true or not, and without any nuance or opportunity for the accused to defend themselves.

"We're simply providing a forum," Pastor Jeffress said in justifying the Grinch Alert. "People may post whether they believe a business or organization ought to be on the naughty or nice list. We're not making that determination."

One of the businesses on the "Naughty" list is the Mi Cocina Restaurant in Southlake, and a woman who answered the phone -- with a cheery "Happy Holidays" -- said the generic greeting was corporate policy. She hadn't heard of the First Baptist campaign, and the restaurant is decked with a Christmas tree and decorations, so maybe walk-ons won't notice the absence of a "Merry Christmas" either.

Also on the "Naughty" list is the City Hall in Crowley.

"The city hall at Crowley has GIANT letters in front of the city buildings that say "HAPPY HOLIDAYS"......I say "booooooooo"!!! Merry Christmas is the true REASON for the SEASON!!!" the offended complainer wrote.

Crowley City Manager Truitt Gilbreath, who is Southern Baptist, said he didn't know the sign was a problem.

"We really didn't know we were making a statement of any sort," Gilbreath told USA Today. "We've had that sign out for seven or eight years."

Moreover, Crowley raised $1,000 for the local House of Hope to buy gifts, clothes and food for needy families by displaying nine fully loaded Christmas trees at City Hall that were then auctioned off.

"We have a happy family of giving people here in Crowley," Gilbreath said. "If anyone were interested enough to check us out, they would see this is a spiritual community of people who help each other."

So far, large retail chains like Nordstrom's and Macy's have dominated the complaints list, which had seven entries as of Thursday. The "Nice" list has 10 entries.

Given that scope, it's hard to see any of this affecting the trend toward the blanket holiday greeting, much less the steamroller of consumer buying habits.

Others argue, however, that it's the principle that counts, and that First Baptist is on the side of the angels.

"This is about freedom, free speech and voting with your pocketbooks," Kelly Shackelford, head of the conservative Liberty Institute in suburban Plano, told The Morning News.

On the other hand, the "naughty-or-nice" shopping campaign could also boost the profile of First Baptist, a 13,000-member church that embarked on a major fundraising and building campaign after Jeffress was hired in 2007. In that time, Jeffress has made news with strong statements against homosexuality and Islam. But a spokesman said Wednesday that Jeffress was being interviewed on CNN and Fox News, among other stations. So this could be his biggest splash yet.

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223 Comments

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Karen

I work in customer service over the telephone and say "happy holidays" because I really don't know who is on the other end. However if someone says "Merry Christmas" then I respond in kind. It's funny that people who believe in democracy and free speech are usually the first ones to complain. Why should it matter if someone says one or the other. If a person is so insecure in their faith that "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" offend then, then they need some more time on their knees with a good bible.

December 19 2010 at 3:09 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Karen's comment
Marquita

Amen!

December 19 2010 at 4:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
sclaark

These stores that won't allow their employees to greet customers with "Merry Christmas" are PACKED with shoppers buying CHRISTMAS presents, not Hannakah presents, or Kwanza presents (please forgive any mispelling). These stores are decorated and doing robust business for ONE REASON....Christmas.

I don't think saying Merry Christmas should offend anybody under these circumstances. Furthermore, 76% of Americans identify themselves as Christian (Aris Study 2008), 95% of the founding father were Christian, and said the laws and morals of the bible should be used as a fulcrum for the laws of this land...and they said the bible SHOULD BE TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS so that children would know where their ethics came from.

If I were in Israel or Iraq, I would not be offended if someone assumed I was Jewish or Muslim. Folks, you're in America. And although we don't have a national religion, this has always been, unofficially, a Christian Nation. When in Rome, do as the Romans.

It's not that the Christians are intolerant of other faiths, or even those of other faiths being offended, this is about a very vocal ATHEIST minority that is offended by people that just want to be able to freely express their faith as is guaranteed by the Constitution.

I

December 19 2010 at 10:57 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
gritzsl

Interesting, most of the time posts and comments are short, two to four lines long. On this subject there are many comments that are many line long. This indicates this subject is close to the hearts and minds of many. This is spposed to be a season of joy and giving to others. A season to remember those that have less than you do and to spread "joy" and hope among all peoples. As indicated in several comments this is a " Happy Holiday Season" celebrated by several major faiths. By trying to single out an individual belief it tends to separate peopple instead of bring them together. Shame on Rev. Robert Jeffress for acting against the togetherness this season should bring and causing separation among all people.

December 19 2010 at 8:21 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Shari

Hey...Rev. Jeffries and the First Baptist Church of Dallas...ever here of a concept called...RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE?"
Rev. Jeffress is as bad as the taliban!
"The appropriate thing for Christians to do at this time of year is to find new and more effective ways to extend the love and peace of the season to others, not to insist that such enterprises as commercial businesses put up Christmas trees," William Lawrence, dean of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, told The Morning News.
News flash...Christianity isn't the only religion in the world! Nor is Christmas the only holiday celebrated in December!
How about moving into this century with the rest of us?
The country is dealing with a difficult ecomomy. By putting businesses on a "naughty" list you may very well cause a business to suffer and employees to get fired...Christian employees mind you!! People depend on these jobs to buy items like food and clothing not to mention paying rent or a mortgage! Or how about buying CHRISTMAS presents for their families, buying a CHRISTMAS tree, CHRSITMAS ornaments, food for CHRISTMAS dinner, gas money to get to loved ones to celebrate CHRISTMAS Eve, etc. I think you need to ask yourselves...what would Jesus do?!!!

December 17 2010 at 10:40 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
jreoux1

If these so called Cristians want the true message of this season to be given, then they would insisit on everyone saying "Happy Advent", instead of the commercialized version. Advent is the season of annticipating Christ's birth, up to and including Christmas day. The Repub saying that for Christians, this is the most holy of days ahows how he's playing the religious folks. All Christians should value Easter Sunday as the holiest day because that was the day we were given the gift of eternal life.It is just another very bright light shining on the truth about conservatives and how they'll say and do anything to be in power. They want limited government, as long as it is limited to their views and opinions.

December 17 2010 at 10:22 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Brad

Sigh. This makes me sick! I, for one, will never darken the door of that church again! I spent my teen years in that church. Robert Jeffries was my youth minister back then. Back then he would hang out with us, cut up and laugh and talk about the positive side of being a Christian. What has happened to the church? Jesus! Save me from your followers! I ran into Robert a tear or so ago. He would barely shake my hand or look me in the eye. His wife Amy looked miserable. Jesus walked among the real people of the world. He didn't single out gay people or Muslims and condemn them... he let his Fathers love shine thru him and let people be who they were. Too bad this "spiritual" leader can't do the same thing! People in glass houses...

December 14 2010 at 9:48 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
rc

typical for today's American ............ want to celebrate the Christmas holidays, but ignore the meaning and whitewash and lie to make it fit the know-nothing diveristy tolerance BS. America will lose the next world war, most likely against the muslims, cuz diversity and tolerance will dictate it and todays American will not put out the effort for fear of offending someone

December 13 2010 at 4:09 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
cofeeecat

I find it amusing that these so-called Christians are fighting so hard to preserve pagan rituals. For example, Christ was born in September (based on astrological evidence in the Bible) and had his birth date move to December 25 to coincide with Saturnalia, the Roman festival where they decorated with greenery and gift-giving, in the 4th century, around the time it became the official religion of Rome. And the Christmas tree is derived from the Norse god Odin and the "world tree" Yggdrasil. Do some research, Christians, before you decide to mount campaigns that only expose your ignorance and intolerance.

December 12 2010 at 11:16 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Dana

How can anyone say it's the "True" reason for the season? Hannakkah and Winter Solstice were celebrated before Christmas was even an idea, and several other belief systems have celebrations this time of year. Jeesh. Why do these people think they hold the monopoly on a Holiday.

December 12 2010 at 12:52 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dana's comment
doctordelicious7

Hannakkah in it's current form exists as a direct result of American Christmas celebrations, including the tradition of gift-giving. Not too many folks celebrating the solistice these days, so yeah, in the United States Christmas IS the true reason for the season.

December 13 2010 at 12:02 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Terry

While you may have the right to say what you want to anyone, the properly mannered person would not intentionally say something to someone that they knew was not appropriate. Some people were raised with manners, some weren't.

December 11 2010 at 10:08 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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