Churches are removing Pepsi machines from their buildings and encouraging congregants to boycott PepsiCo products.
The reason is simple. Pepsi is supportive of the LGBT community and many churches—mostly Baptist—are offended by that support.
PepsiCo has been a consistent supporter of LGBT Pride events around the country. Despite the religious right’s ham-handed insistence, the huge multinational company has refused to back away from its tolerance initiatives and diversity protections.
According to the American Family Association (AFA), the religious group that launched the boycott, PepsiCo has given $500,000 each to the Human Rights Campaign and Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG). The first promotes equality in the workplace and in government; the second seeks greater tolerance in schools and families. According to the AFA, these goals should be discouraged.
PepsiCo disagrees, and they back it with policies, pronouncements and their substantial pocketbook. Locally, PepsiCo is active in St. Pete Pride, and the Out and Equal Workplace Summit taking place next weekend at Walt Disney World.
PepsiCo supports City Year, which empowers young people to take on leadership and mentoring roles in their community. The organization, which seeks to “change the world one city at a time,” asks teens to give 10 months of service to encourage students to complete high school, and to otherwise foster active citizenship and healthier communities.
PepsiCo is also a major sponsor of DoSomething.org, a Web site that asks students to join a long list of causes—ranging from animal welfare and disaster relief to fighting poverty and school violence.
But AFA is indifferent to these worthwhile initiatives. According to them, PepsiCo supports LGBT equality and so their bottom line should suffer.
The easily-offended AFA has also called for a boycott of Abercrombie & Fitch because of their “pornographic” advertisements featuring young co-eds. A&F is a member of the National Diversity Council, which encourages companies to employ people from all races, sexual orientations and backgrounds. It also sponsors American Cancer Society events around the country, and donates significant sums to high school empowerment programs.
Does the AFA consider the impact on these worthy initiatives and charities when they announce their anti-gay boycotts? Or are they deemed less important then the fundraising AFA and other “Christian-based” organizations predictably generate with their homophobic tirades? Take a guess.
Of course, our community has also been guilty of overreaching. Recently, several LGBT activist groups were offended by a Boost Mobile commercial featuring NASCAR driver Danica Patrick in the pit surrounded by men wearing women’s clothing. Patrick then says the company tag line, “You think this is wrong…,” before talking about unfair cell phone charges.
Boost Mobile was going for laughs, and issued a statement saying it never intended to depict the LGBT or transgender community in a negative light, but a boycott was announced anyway. The ad’s sensitivity is questionable, and whether or not it was a good idea can be debated. But Boost Mobile does a lot of good for charities. It is active in a youth development program that encourages teens and pre-teens to participate in local government and environmental projects.
So when is a boycott appropriate? And when should a specific negatively perceived action trump other good works done by a company?
If an otherwise responsible company pokes fun at a segment of society with no hostile intent, a boycott is the not right response. And boycotting a company for supporting one marginalized segment of society, when that company that seeks to lift all sorts of disadvantaged communities with their good works, is just flat out prejudice.
Besides, churches switching to Coca-Cola machines won’t hurt the LGBT community.
Coca-Cola hosts a Gay and Lesbian Forum within its workplace to ensure equitable treatment of LGBT employees, and HRC has consistently given the company a 100% rating for its diversity policies.