When a Georgia Walmart took away a greeter's right to tell customers to "have a blessed day" after one customer complained, the backlash from hundreds of supporters was strong enough to force the retail store to back down.
And now, greeter James Phillips is enjoying the positive support from those who shop at the Blue Ridge, Georgia store, and others from around the country who believe he's only doing the right thing in a day when political correctness has silenced many seemingly harmless gestures.
"I wasn't trying to start a movement, but I am very appreciative that people thought enough of me to stand up for me this way," Phillips said to Atlanta's Fox News affiliate. "I want to just be one of the best greeters I know how to be."
In a statement released to the news station on Thursday, the Walmart manager says that his intention was only to share a customer's concern. "We greatly value our associate and appreciate his work for our company and he is welcome to continue sharing his greeting with our customers."
The manager admits that he specifically told Phillips to stop the greeting, but admits that it was "not correct guidance because it doesn't reflect any Walmart policy."
When customers got word that the store originally told the greeter to stop using the phrase, a crowd gathered outside the store and started chanting, "Have a blessed day, have a blessed day, have a blessed day" to show their support of the words that got Phillips in trouble. Over 800 messages were sent to the Fox 5 Facebook page and reports came in that people in the tri-county area were posting signs on their cars rallying for the man. Many customers even contacted Walmart's headquarters to complain about the manager and his decision.
When the store's manager told Philips that he could resume his greeting the next day, Phillips showed up at the rally to let the supporters know the good news. "Today, I'm able to able to stand and tell people 'Have a blessed day' and I thank God for it," he said to cheers and applause.
The man said that he's especially happy to not cause a conflict with his employer because he currently lives on a limited budget from Social Security.
""He doesn't have a mean bone in his body and to be told not to say 'Have a blessed day.' If someone told me that that would hurt me," said one of the rally's attendees.
While this story had a happy ending, a bank teller in Kentucky was fired from her job last year when she told a customer to "have a blessed day." Polly Neace has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, U.S. Bank, for religious discrimination after losing her job of 24 years when she used the phrase after being warned against it.
"I can't back down from this. It's the principle behind everything," says Neace.