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Missouri Baptists Protest Wal-Mart’s Outreach to Gays, Hint at Boycott

The Missouri Baptist Convention passed a resolution Wednesday protesting “pro-homosexual” policies by Wal-Mart and urging the state’s Baptists to “exercise moral stewardship” in where they shop, a phrase leaders characterized as “moral code” warning of a potential boycott.

The nation’s largest retailer has been under fire for some time from labor groups for putting profits ahead of workers’ rights.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
But since a partnership with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce was announced in August, Wal-Mart has also become an object of scorn for some religious fundamentalists.
 
The American Family Association has encouraged its members “to make a personal decision to boycott Wal-Mart or its subsidiary, Sam’s Club.”
 
An AFA Action Alert accused Wal-Mart of promoting gay marriage, listing a number of book titles sold by the chain to back up the claim.
 
The Family Research Council produced a flyer asking why the retailer is supporting homosexual activism. It can be downloaded as a PDF and left on the customer-service desk at the nearest Wal-Mart store.
 
Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue) is planning a “Gospel Information Explosion” Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving and the busiest shopping day of the year, to hand out pamphlets at 300 Wal-Mart stores nationwide.
 
Wiley Drake, second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said on a recent radio broadcast he plans to take part in the “Save Wal-Mart” campaign, by visiting a store in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Buena Park, Calif., where he is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church.
 
“If Wal-Mart refuses to change, we will boycott them eventually,” said Drake, an architect of the Southern Baptist Convention’s boycott of Disney in the 1990s over a similar issue.
 
Operation Save America says its campaign is not a protest, but suggests participants make signs with “great ideas” like: “Wal-Mart Supports Sodomy,” “Wal-Mart Celebrates Sin,” and “Wal-Mart Betrayed Jesus Christ.”
 
Wal-Mart broadened its anti-discrimination policy to cover gay and lesbian workers in 2003, bringing the company into line with most other big companies.
 
In March Wal-Mart began stocking Plan B, a “morning-after” birth control pill, in all its pharmacies.
Anti-abortion groups say it isn’t really a contraceptive but rather causes an early term abortion.
 
The new partnership with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the largest pro-gay business development and economic advocacy organization in the world, included Wal-Mart agreeing to give $25,000 to the organization and pay for two conferences. In return, Wal-Mart earned a seat on the NGLCC corporate advisory council.
 
In September Wal-Mart was listed as a sponsor of an “LGBT Diversity Week” at BoiseStateUniversity in Idaho.
 
The Missouri Baptist convention resolution calls on “our denominational leadership, pastors and church members to inform Wal-Mart of our biblical beliefs on marriage, and our support of the constitutional ban on homosexual marriage, and our encouragement that Wal-Mart reconsider their policy which offends so many.”
 
It further encourages “the 2,100 Missouri Baptist churches and their members to exercise moral stewardship regarding the businesses they patronize.”
 
According to the Southeast Missourian newspaper, messengers rejected about 2-1 a floor amendment calling for an immediate boycott.
 
The St. LouisPost-Dispatch quoted convention leaders as explaining the resolution’s wording was “designed from Disney language” and written in “moral code” that Wal-Mart lawyers would understand to be a warning.
 
In 1997 the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a boycott resolution encouraging church members to “refrain from patronizing” Disney and other companies promoting “immoral ideologies and practices.”
 
The convention gave fair warning to Disney the year before, passing a resolution asking Southern Baptists to “give prayerful reconsideration to their purchase and support” of Disney products, and to boycott the company “if they continue this anti-Christian and anti-family trend.”
 
The SBC called off the Disney boycott in 2005, saying it had “communicated effectively our displeasure concerning products and policies that violate moral righteousness and traditional family values.”
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.