The boycott is back on. A coalition of conservative Christian groups headed by the American Family Association doesn’t want Ford Motor Co. to advertise in gay media or to support GLBT organizations. To make its point, more than 40 right-wing political and religious gorups is making good on its threat to steer business away from Ford Motor Company.
The AFA started the ball rolling last May, when it threatened Ford with a boycott because of its gay-friendly policies. The following fall, the automaker anounced that it was pulling its gay-targeted advertising and putting a hold on support of gay groups and events. Ford cited flagging finances as its justification. AFA head Donald Wildmon told a different story: According to Wildmon, Ford’s Christian capitulation was the result of a pact struck between his group and the car company. Ford did not deny that such an agreement existed.
The automaker, however, did change its mind. After tense meetings with GLBT community leaders and emailed outcry from customers, Ford reinstituted its gay-themed advertising and philanthropic plans. The AFA response to the flip-flop was muted. Official word described the group as reviewing its options. Well, it turns out that “reviewing” means “marshalling the troops.” The AFA amassed a coalition of Christian soldiers – more than 40 organizations – to boycott Ford for one year. The goal: to take aim at Ford’s right to advertise where it wants and to support the causes it chooses.
From the New York Times:
“Ford reneged on the agreement to stop funding homosexual organizations and activities and advertising in homosexual media,” the association chairman, the Reverend Donald Wildmon, said in a statement.
But so far, Ford said, it plans to stick to its policy regarding advertising in gay media.
“We’ve always been open to dialogue, but our position is that we will continue treating all with respect,” a spokeswoman, Kathleen Vokes, said.
Make no mistake: AFA and its band of fearful fundies have every right to boycott anything they want. As the AFA Web site explains correctly, “Ford has every right to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups promoting homosexual marriage but those who oppose homosexual marriage have every right not to buy Ford automobiles.” Absolutely true. And intelligent people have the right to call the right-wing action exactly as we see it.
The right-wing position here is simple: Don’t show any respect or support for the humanity and equality of your gay and lesbian employees and customers – or else. Believe what we believe appears to be at least part of the message, but I believe the anti-GLBT forces are a bit more cynical and controlling than that. They don’t care what Ford execs believe, only what they do. The message is Do what we say garnished with a sprig of Kowtow to us.
The right-wing’s complaint isn’t that Ford cars are deficient in any way. It isn’t griping about bad treatment of employees or accusing the company of fleecing its customers. It certainly isn’t complaining about Ford’s documented support of faith-based groups and efforts. No, according to many conservative Christians and Catholics, the problem is that Ford also shows respect for its GLBT customers and workers. The auto giant, as part of a huge advertising strategy, runs ads in gay media. Ford offers family benefits to its partnered GLBT employees. It sponsors gay philanthropic organizations and events.
Now, the AFA would have you believe that it is calling on Ford to be “neutral.” This is a crock: Being neutral is supporting or not supporting both religious groups and gay groups. Ford supports both. What the fundies would have us believe is that a “neutral” position is one that supports the “anti” position. It benefits anti-gay conservatives if Ford ignores queer concerns and, in nixing GLBT-media advertising, pretends that a certain type of customer does not exist. “Neutral”? Consider this: The fundies are demanding, “Don’t recognize gays.” Are the gays demanding a cessation of Christian-friendly activities or a halt to donations to faith-based groups? Of course not. Who’s calling for discrimination? Anti-GLBT Christians.
The AFA and its conservative cronies want their view upheld and obeyed in every avenue of life. They support that their view is inscribed in law, a set of regulations that is supposed to be separate from church. Now they are insisting that corporations must operate – at least publicly – according to their beliefs. Get this: Initially, the fundies called on Ford to stop offering domestic-partner benefits. Now, the beef is only about the advertising and sponsorship. If this were about principle, would the AFA have relented on family benefits? Of course not. But this isn’t about principle: It’s about demanding obedience, maintaining control and threatening punishment. I’m all for efforts for groups demanding respect, but this is an effort demanding disrespect for another group. That’s anti-American, in my opinion, and it’s anti-Christian too.
How do justice-seekers respond to this fundie foolishness? If you’re inclined and can afford it, buy a Ford. Contact Ford management: Thank them for doing the right thing and encourage them to remain on the side of tolerance and equality. As for the AFA and its compatriots, all you can do is pray for them – and marshal your own troops to voice opposition.