“I don’t blame them,” a friend told me, taking sympathy for Target, as I explained their anti-gay donations and the ensuing boycott threats from LGBT community members.
“What do you mean?”
He responded, “They’re just playing both sides of the aisle. I don’t blame them. I would too.”
(Photo right: An image from a Facebook group urging a boycott of Target, via Minnesota Independent)
My friend has a point: Large corporations often give donations and contributions to all sorts of organizations of all sorts of ideological stripes. In Target’s case — wherein more than 250,000 people have pledged boycott over its donations to an anti-gay PAC in Minnesota — the political contributions to “both sides of the aisle” aren’t nearly as even as they should be. One could make the argument that Minnesota-based Target has never been as “Tar-gay”-friendly as it’s appeared.
The controversy started when Target was blasted for a $150,000 donation to MN Forward, a political action committee run by and endorsing Tom Emmer, an anti-LGBT, Republican candidate for Minnesota governor. But that wasn’t nearly the end of the story. As gay activists dug deeper, they found Target employees gave overwhelmingly to the anti-gay side of California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative. According to OpenSecrets (via The Huffington Post), employees gave $3,250 to the campaign to pass Proposition 8. Only $750 was given to organizations working to defeat the anti-gay marriage amendment. (To be fair, Target has released a statement distancing itself from Proposition 8 contributions.)
And, of course, it doesn’t end there. By all accounts, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel seems to be of an evangelical Christian stripe — a stripe that routinely works to deny LGBT people their rights as citizens and dignity and respect as humans.
- Steinhafel himself maybe finds his guidance as much in faith as in a balance sheet. Though an extremely private person, a few details point to a man and a family involved in a particular strain of Christianity well beyond that of simply going to church on Sunday.
When it comes to leadership advice, Steinhafel endorsed Rev. Tim Geoffrion’s spiritual life coaching and leadership consulting, which combines “relevant biblical teaching” with “leadership consulting.” The Target CEO also found guidance with Terry Esau’s “Breathing exercises with God” program which “nudges human hearts to willingly say,… ‘I want to become the brush in Your hand, Jesus.’” Steinhafels endorsement called the lifestyle exercises espoused by Esau “a better way to live.”
It must be noted that there is no evidence that Steinhafel’s spiritual guides are outwardly gay-hostile—after all, Geoffrion has even appeared on HuffPo.
But there’s more. Steinhafel and his wife are also top-line donors to to the Minnesota organization “TreeHouse,” which provides “faith-based hope and guidance to hurting teens, alumni, and parents during difficult times.” Steinhafel also serves on its board. The organization’s annual report highlights one teen’s story, “Before I began TreeHouse, I didn’t even believe in God. Because of TreeHouse, I now have a relationship with Him. I know that God has something great in store for my life.” Another’s success story goes, “One day I was meeting with a staff member and we began to talk about God. I became a Christian that day and I remember feeling for the first time in my life, I truly belonged somewhere.”
And, God forbid Steinhafel’s daughter, who has studied with the anti-gay Focus on the Family Institute, had ever turned out to be one of the dreaded corps of queers. If so, she never would have graduated from her school. Again, The Awl reports:
- Steinhafel’s daughter attended Wheaton College, a Christian school that signs all incoming students to a Biblical “Community Covenant” which condemns homosexual behavior. Wheaton expels any homosexual it identifies. The school’s Center for Applied Christian Ethics currently includes resources on homosexuality such as “Science and the Ecclesiastical Homosexuality Debates,” which classifies homosexuality as a “crisis,” and “Understanding Homosexuality” which argues that “The removal of homosexuality from the DSM does not and cannot conclusively decide the issue of the pathological status of homosexuality.”