An Arizona woman who was serving as a bell ringer for The Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign says she was assaulted by another woman for saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."
Kristina Vindiola says she was bell ringing outside a Walmart in Phoenix when a shopper hit her for saying "Happy Holidays," ABC affiliate KNXV-TV Phoenix reports.
"I thought she was going to put money in the kettle," Vindiola told the station. "She came up to me and said, 'Do you believe in God?' And she says, 'You're supposed to say Merry Christmas,' and that's when she hit me."
The woman reportedly hit Vindiola's arm then went into the store. Vindiola told a store manager, who called the police, though KNXV-TV reports that law enforcement officials did not have enough evidence to arrest the accused woman.
Kathy Lovin, a spokesperson for The Salvation Army's Western Territory, told The Christian Post that bell ringers are asked during training to say "Merry Christmas" when they volunteer, though they aren't required to do so. They are trained, however, to be "gracious at all times."
"The vast majority of their interactions with the public are really positive. But even if they're not, our bell ringers are trained to be gracious and to be good representatives of The Salvation Army," said Lovin.
Nearly 30 cents of every dollar donated through the annual Red Kettle campaign in the U.S. is given in front of Walmart stores, she added.
"So those Walmart shoppers are extremely generous, and we're really grateful for them. So we're sorry that this incident happened at all," said Lovin.
The funds given through the Red Kettle campaign are used to provide holiday meals for needy families and the homeless, as well as to support other services provided by The Salvation Army throughout the year, according to a document from the organization's website. The ministry serves around 30 million people annually.
The debate over whether people should say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" is just one aspect of the so-called "War on Christmas."
In 2012, a Pew Research Center survey found that 42 percent of Americans believe stores should greet their customers by saying "Merry Christmas" during the holiday season. In comparison, 12 percent say they prefer less religious phrases such as "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings," while 46 percent say it doesn't matter which greeting is used.