Salvation Army bell ringer assaulted for greeting man 'Merry Christmas'

(Wikimedia Commons/Dwight Burdette)Representative Image: A Salvation Army red kettle attended to by a bell ringer at Kroger supermarket in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

A Salvation Army bell ringer was assaulted by an unidentified man on Wednesday while he was collecting donations outside a Walmart store in Roseville, California.

The bell ringer, Rev. Jamie Wolfe, Sr., told CBS Sacramento that he greets everyone "Merry Christmas," but one man unexpectedly attacked him while he was trying to spread the holiday cheer.

"He haymakered me, hit me, got me down on the ground and we started wrestling, at that point I'm fighting for my life," he recounted.

The unidentified man did not appear to be interested in the kettle money, but his cheer. Police said that the attacker is still on the run, but there is hope that he will be identified through a surveillance video.

Lt. Steve Pavlakis, who worked with the Salvation Army for 14 years, said that he has not witnessed an incident like this.

"Store says they love him and he's been the best bell ringer they've ever had, so an attack that's unprovoked is very surprising and very unfortunate. It's not the call we'd expect to get at night," he said.

"It's really saddening that one of our bell horingers would be out there working day after day for us that's met with hate and punches to the face and kicks to the face," he added.

Wolfe suffered bumps and bruises in the scuffle, but he said that he has no plans to stop to spread Christmas joy. "It's really rewarding. I'll be right back out there doing it again tomorrow," he said.

This was not the first time that a Salvation Army bell ringer was assaulted by a passerby during the holidays.

In 2015, a blind bell ringer was kicked, punched and hit with a donation bucket outside a Smashburger in Greenburgh, New York.

In 2013, a bell ringer was punched by a woman outside an Arizona Walmart for saying, "Happy Holidays," instead of "Merry Christmas."

The holiday greetings had become a focal point in the "war on Christmas" debate in recent years.

However, a Pew Research Center survey that was released earlier this month revealed that a growing number are less concerned about whether they are greeted "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" when they enter stores and businesses this holiday season.

Other findings revealed that the religious aspect of Christmas is less emphasized now than in recent years and there has been a significant decline in the share of Americans who believe that the biblical elements of the Christmas story, such as the virgin birth, are historically true.

According to Pew, 55 percent of Americans say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. The figure includes 46 percent who see it more as a religious holiday than a cultural holiday, and nine percent who celebrate it both as a religious and a cultural occasion.

In 2013, 50 percent said they celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, including 51 percent who saw it as more religious than cultural.

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