It’s not every day that the leadership of a large organization is willing to draw a hard line in the sand about a controversial topic, but this practice has been making headlines in a dramatic way the last few years.
What started with the President of Hobby Lobby pushing a case all the way to the Supreme Court and recently included Target’s strong stance for LGBT rights is becoming more of a norm and less of an anomaly. Consumer interest levels vary from extreme support to unexpected levels of backlash.
What is the impact of corporations tackling religious issues in America? Let’s look at a few of the most infamous examples.
McDonald’s Rainbow Pride
Gay Pride Month is openly celebrated around the country, but perhaps nowhere with such fervor as in California. McDonald’s recently released a limited-edition rainbow French fry box that will be available throughout the California Bay Area in support of their ‘inclusive culture’.
Joining McDonald’s as official sponsors of San Francisco Pride are Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple — as well as what many would consider more traditional or conservative businesses such as Bank of America, CVS, Macy’s and the Walt Disney Company.
It’s not clear how widely news of this sponsorship is being spread, but there are already conservatives calling for a boycott of McDonald’s in the area prompting one commentator to note “Where will a true Christian go to purchase goods and services?”
Target’s Bathroom Blunder
Taking a topic that most would prefer to keep under wraps, Target’s leadership spoke out strongly for bathroom equality in 2016, prompting a backlash that may have been unexpected.
A Twitter campaign encouraged followers to #FlushTarget, while conservative powerhouse AFA.net created a Boycott Target Pledge that garnered over 1.5 million signatures at the time of this writing. However, what’s been the true impact of this massive effort by Target to be inclusive?
Target’s policy officially allows anyone of any gender to use any bathroom or fitting room that they feel appropriate based upon their “gender identity” — a move that has been described as dangerous to women and children by many family groups around the country.
A year after the controversy, Target continues to stand strong, and has committed $20 million to install single-use restrooms in many of its stores. Sales continue their three-period decline, showing that the public continues to vote with their wallets to show their support (or lack thereof!) of this controversial policy.
Hobby Lobby v. Contraception
Hobby Lobby’s leadership won a landmark case in the Supreme Court that defended the corporation’s right to religious freedom in a very specific way. The legal battle allowed Hobby Lobby to deny insurance coverage for specific FDA-approved birth control methods: two “morning after” pills and two IUDs, or intrauterine devices.
The reason for the strong feelings of leadership? The specific methods of birth control were considered to be abortifacients – essentially aborting a human life with their use.
The very fine line in this particular case was all based around the consideration of when conception truly occurs, with the Supreme Court agreeing with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who state that conception occurs at implantation, as opposed to Hobby Lobby’s claim that it occurs when egg and sperm combine to form a zygote.
The result was the same: The Supreme Court agreed to allow Hobby Lobby to disallow the reimbursement of these expenses on their employee health care plan.
Chick-Fil-A is Humming: But Not on a Sunday!
One of the longest-running feuds between a conservative organization and any number of LGBT group is that of Chick-Fil-A, who’s self-described evangelical Christian leader caused some waves in 2012 by taking on same-sex marriage in a highly visible way.
The organization continues to be closed on Sunday so employees can attend the worship service of their choice and spend time with family, but its the anti-LGBT stance that got the company in hot water. Then-CEO Dan Cathy admitted nearly two years later that his strong position on the topic probably wasn’t a great business decision, and the organization now stays out of the fray while maintaining their conservative Christian roots.
What are all of these organizations learning as they journey down a path that brings politics, religion and personal beliefs squarely in the eye of the public? Perhaps the most important lesson is that taking a stand on either side is guaranteed to bring out the worst and most vicious attacks.
As Dan Cathy has learned, gay marriage may still be wrong, but he’s ready to shift focus and just sell chicken.
~ 1776 Christian