Apple Strikes iTunes Participation in ’Christian Values Network’
It seemed like a good cause: Participating companies like Microsoft and Apple could give consumers a chance to support religious charities when they purchased goods and services by participating in the Christian Values Network, a link referral service.
Other corporations also participated: Macy's, Netflix, REI, even cable channel BBC America.
But when it came out that virulently anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family, Liberty Counsel, Abiding Truth Ministries, and others were exploiting the service to rake in funding, big-name corporations started dropping out of the service -- fast.
In part, the exodus was fueled by the fact that the groups mentioned above, plus others drawing funds from the service, such as the Family Research Council and Summit Ministries, have reportedly been identified as "hate groups" by watchdog group the Southern Poverty Law Center, reported Advocate.com on July 15.
An online petition started through Change.org by Stuart Wilber convinced Microsoft to pull its support of CVN, stopping its contribution to the revenue streams that were flowing into the coffers of groups that had engaged in "blatant and repeated homophobic lies about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people."
Ben Crowther -- who, like Wilber, lives in Seattle -- started a petition of his own through the site, encouraging Apple to drop its support of CVN. A July 27 press release from Change.org reported that Apple followed suit, pulling its iTunes store out of CVN and following the example set by numerous other companies, including Wells Fargo, Macy's, and BBC America.
"The previous petition to get Microsoft to drop its association with CVN directly inspired me to petition Apple," Crowther told EDGE. "My good friend and fellow activist Stuart Wilber was behind the Microsoft petition. When I read his petition and saw Apple was part of the CVN, especially after Microsoft dropped out, I knew that another petition needed to be started. So with the inspiration from Stuart and the help from my friend Joe Mirabella at Change.org, the petition was born."
Change.org reported on the earlier dissolution of corporate support for CVN in a July 18 article.
"Macy's serves a diverse society," a spokesperson for the retail outlet told the online petition site. "As such, we are deeply committed to a philosophy of inclusion in the way we operate our business and support our communities. We welcome all customers into our stores."
Wells Fargo told Change.org they had pulled out of CVN because "it was not compliant with Wells Fargo's brand and marketing [standards]."
"BBC America Shop was not aware of CVN.org's current donation policies," VP of Publicity April Mulcair told a British GLBT news outlet. "We have ended our relationship with this affiliate effective immediately."
"The Focus on the Family website contains anti-gay and anti-transgender content. They describe being gay as 'a particularly evil lie of Satan,'" reported Change.org. "They also attack transgender people."
While Wilber's petition picked up 500 signatures in a single day, Crowther's petition seeking Apple's exit from the arrangement with CVN commanded 13,000 signatures in one day, noted Change.org.
"I wonder if Apple is even aware they are being used to raise money for these homophobic groups," Crowther, a student at Western Washington University, said at the time. "It is so out of character for Apple to be associated with groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. I hope Apple acts quickly to remove their store from the Christian Values Network."
On July 27, Change.org reported that Apple had indeed dropped CVN, with over 22,000 people having signed on to Crowther's petition.
"From the beginning, I knew that once this issue was brought to Apple's attention, they would not want to be a part of CVN because it funds anti-gay hate groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council," Crowther told Change.org. "Apple is a fair-minded business. I'm glad this petition helped make Apple aware of this issue, and I am thrilled that they removed iTunes from CVN."
Crowther had a personal stake in his effort to ensure that GLNT-friendly companies like Apple and unwary iTunes shoppers did not inadvertently lend their financial support to anti-gay groups. Change.org reported that Crowther and his boyfriend came out in high school, and were promptly targeted for homophobic bullying.
"The harassment got so bad I had to go to the principal," Crowther, who will begin his junior year in the fall, recounted.
The bullying continued into college, with homophobic epithets being scrawled on Crowther's door. He finally had to move out of the dorms "because the bullying was so bad," he told Change.org.