Boycotts are a time-honored and almost always legal tool that has been used throughout American history by activists across the political spectrum to help force or prevent certain actions. Most people see the decision not to buy from particular outlets as a legitimate and precious part of our First Amendment rights.
Anti-gay religious groups, however, apparently have a different view. And it sounds a whole lot like, "Do as I say, not as I do."
It’s well known that many such groups have led boycotts of companies that support LGBT rights, typically because they supposedly back "the homosexual lifestyle" or produce risque entertainment. But when LGBT supporters call for boycotts of companies that support anti-gay causes and rhetoric — as they have in recent weeks — well, that's when the very same anti-gay religious groups begin to whine about "discrimination," "economic terrorism," and "bullying."
Most recently, several anti-gay groups are spitting mad about a surprisingly successful grassroots online boycott campaign of the Charity Give Back Group (CGBG, formerly the Christian Values Network), a sort of an online mall that gives a percentage of each purchase to religiously oriented groups, including anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council (FRC), Focus on the Family (FOF), and the Liberty Counsel. SPLC lists FRC as an anti-gay hate group because of its especially demonizing and baseless propaganda about LGBT people.
The petition campaign against CGBG started initially in July and targeted Microsoft, asking that it "stop raising money for antigay hate groups." Within 20 hours, Microsoft had cut its ties to CGBG. Wells Fargo and Delta Airlines soon followed. Another petition then urged Apple to do the same, and it wasn’t long before Apple withdrew iTunes from the listing on the CGBG site. Since then, nearly 200 companies have withdrawn from CGBG, a for-profit operation.
The response of anti-gay groups like FRC is to complain that LGBT groups are forcing companies to "discriminate" against Christians. FRC launched a "Resist Discrimination" campaign that demands that companies "resist pressure to discriminate against customers with a traditional, biblical view of marriage."
The FRC's Peter Sprigg later appeared on the American Family Association's (AFA) American Family Radio to discuss the campaign against CGBG, where he lamented that people "are afraid of the homosexual activists." (The SPLC also lists the AFA as an anti-gay hate group because of its denigration of LGBT people.) And in spite of Sprigg's and the FRC's continued demonization of LGBT people, Sprigg claimed on the show that "everything we do is motivated by love for the people who are hurt by this lifestyle." FRC shows that "love" through boycotts, too — “discrimination,” as the group would have it, against Wal-Mart (pdf) and McDonald's, which have been too friendly to LGBT people for FRC’s taste.
The AFA is no stranger to boycotts, or hypocrisy, either. They've boycotted Hallmark for its line of LGBT-friendly cards, and Home Depot for supporting LGBT rights. This past May, One Million Moms, an AFA project, urged members to try to convince advertisers to drop their support of the TV show “Glee,” which, they claimed, was glorifying "the homosexual lifestyle."
Focus on the Family is also trying to derail the boycott of CGBG. Its political arm, CitizenLink, is urging its members to write to the companies that cut their ties to CGBG. FOF's own record includes boycotts of Wells Fargo, which donated to a gay rights group, and Procter & Gamble, because that company supported the repeal of an ordinance that discriminated against LGBT people.
Bill Donohue of the hard-line Catholic League has joined forces with FRC in decrying the CGBG boycott, claiming, "Radical proponents of gay marriage have taken the culture war to the marketplace." Most astonishingly — and totally falsely — Donohue denied that religious-right groups lead similar pressure campaigns. He neglected to mention that after he harshly criticized the Smithsonian for its exhibit of LGBT-themed art, one of the offending works was removed. In earlier years, the Catholic League urged boycotts of 20th Century Fox, ABC and Disney; threatened a boycott of CBS; and demanded that ABC kill a television drama about a Catholic priest — all examples of the pressure campaigns Donahue says the religious right does not engage in. (Catholic League spokesman Jeff Field saw it differently, saying the league's boycotts were merely aimed at those who "defame our religion." He differentiated that from "asking corporations to become involved in the culture wars.")
Not to be outdone, the Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber dedicated yesterday's program on “Faith and Freedom” radio to a discussion of how "homo-fascists" are unfairly pressuring businesses to drop out of CGBG's charity program. Christians, Barber claims, are victims of "persecution" from LGBT people. But that didn’t stop Barber’s group, in 2008, from encouraging a boycott of McDonald's over the restaurant chain’s donation to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, claiming that the company was personally attacking tens of millions of Americans who support "traditional morality." That’s not all. Every year, Liberty Counsel encourages its members to support businesses that "honor Christmas" and avoid those that don't in their annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign."
Isn’t this precisely the kind of thing the religious-right groups like to call “moral relativism”?