Pastor organizes boycott of gay-supporting companies

A Washington pastor called for the support of fellow Christians last month when he declared a national boycott of companies that supported a state bill protecting gays from discrimination.

Rev. Kevin Hutcherson – pastor of Antioch Bible Church in suburban Seattle – alerted religious consumers that companies such as Microsoft, Nike and Hewlett Packard were endorsing the bill, which prohibits discrimination due to sexual orientation for those seeking housing, employment, credit or insurance.

A spokesperson for Microsoft confirmed the company’s backing of the bill, saying, “While we have always had strong internal anti-discrimination policies and employee benefits, our internal policies cannot cover the range of housing, education, financial and other services that many of our employees and families need.”

Hutcherson responded by encouraging his supporters to purchase shares in the companies’ stock and then dump them to drive down prices.

That bill, which passed narrowly in the state Senate on a 25-23 vote, was signed into law last week.

Rev. Edward Schleter, a pastor at St. Aloysius Church in Bowling Green, said that although he was not familiar with the bill, the boycott tactic is one that usually produces results.

“A big way to get a point across is through economic power,” Schleter said. “It gets attention a lot quicker than a letter to the editor does. It’s a lot easier to influence through economics.”

But Rev. Mark Blake, senior pastor at the evangelical Bowling Green Alliance Church, said boycotting the companies may not be the right route for Hutcherson to spread his ideas.

“I suppose there might be better ways to teach the morality of Christianity,” he said. “If I were as concerned [as Hutcherson], I would have more discussion with the gay and lesbian community, rather than being a distanced protester.”

Blake said that as a pastor, he focuses on communicating with people and would be hesitant to declare a protest similar to Hutcherson’s at his own church.

“I’m concerned about what Microsoft thinks or what anybody thinks to an extent,” he said, “but church folks operate independently. People think independently. I don’t think I would initiate something like that as a group. I would not lead the church in that direction.”

Schleter said St. Aloysius – a Catholic church – would also be unlikely to promote a boycott like Hutcherson’s, mostly because his church does not have a defined stance on gay rights. He said he had “no opinion” on the bill Hutcherson was boycotting.

“We aren’t able to condone homosexual activity, but we do not support prejudice,” he said. “These are people who deserve to be respected and deserve to have certain civil rights.”

Nicky Damania, coordinator of the LGBTA-Q resource center on campus, said he disagrees with Hutcherson’s boycott because it will hurt everyone – not just homosexuals.

“The LGBT community makes up only 10 to 20 percent of the population,” Damania said. “These companies support giving [homosexuals] benefits, but for him to say, ‘don’t support any of these companies,’ what about the 80 percent of employees who work there who are heterosexual? It hurts them too.”

Blake said it was difficult to determine Hutcherson’s exact reasons for deciding on the boycott as the preferred means of protest.

“I would guess it was some motivation to follow a sense of right and wrong in the Christian perspective,” he said. “I would’ve handled it differently.”

Damania hopes the boycott is not successful.

“I would hope [Hutcherson] would realize that there is there is no justification for doing this,” he said. “I would hope eventually that message will trickle down to him.”