Will You Still Buy Toms?

The charity shoe founder spoke at an anti-gay Focus on the Family event recently

Blogs were the first publications that criticized the founder of Toms, a charity shoe company, for taking part in a Focus on the Family event on June 30.

The event, “Feet on the Ground,” was a faith conference that took place in Irvine, Calif., organized by the conservation organization that has regularly spoken out against gay rights. The group had first launched the “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference up until 2009 when Exodus International – another conservative Christian organization – took over in hopes of turning gays straight.

Turns out Focus on the Family would like to distribute Toms shoes to kids in Africa. And while that seems wholesome enough, we can’t help but wonder why anyone would want to be associated with a group that’s anti-feminist, anti-gay and anti-evolution.

After the upset – the blog Jezebel had plenty to say on the issue – and Toms founder Blake Mycoskie promptly apologized this weekend for participating.

“Had I known the full extent of Focus on the Family’s beliefs,” he writes, “I would not have accepted the invitation to speak at their event. It was an oversight on my part and the company’s part and one we regret.” He went on to say that during the last 18 months, he and Toms have presented at more than 70 different events.

“On this one we chose poorly,” he says. “Let me clearly state that both Toms, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all.”

We appreciate Mycoskie’s apology, but have a hard time understanding how he or anyone at Toms could have been confused about Focus on the Family’s mission. The organization clearly states its mission on its website – including cues about marriage being between a man and a woman. And the organization’s founder’s been among the most militant voices for the Federal Marriage Amendment. The group also seeks to ban abortion and pornography and regularly makes statements on everything from gay marriage laws and the Obama administration’s postition on DOMA.

If Mycoskie didn’t apologize, we might still be wondering if he perhaps really believed in this stuff, too. But worse is that comments seemed to pour onto Mycoskie’s blog even before he appeared at the event – mostly from people who were concerned about the burgeoning – if not downright confusing – Toms and Focus on the Family relationship.

One woman wrote: “I was very surprised to hear that Blake has chosen to associate himself with a group called Focus on the Family. FotF is a right-wing fundamentalist hate group which routinely lobbies against women’s rights, and against unions.”

Another wrote: “I just discovered Toms and am eager to try a pair (it’s in my shopping cart!) but cannot, in good conscience, do business with an organization that is aligned with a hate group such as FoF.”

No one from Toms responded to any of the Focus on Family responses on Mycoskie’s website, though Mycoskie did reach out to other users with positive messages to say about the brand within the same comment box.

Focus on the Family released a press statement saying it hopes to broadcast Mycoskie’s presentation after the Toms founder was interviewed by Jim Daly before an audience of 1,500 people. Daly says he is “a little saddened” by the negative response about Toms’ involvement at the event.

“This is an unfortunate statement about the culture we live in, when an organization like ours is deemed unfit to help children in need simply because we hold biblical beliefs about marriage and family,” Daly says in a statement. “It’s also a chilling statement about the future of the culture we live in.”

We’d argue that it’s a good day for LGBT rights in a way when a company like Toms is worried about being linked to any organization that believes gay and lesbian people are somehow less human and deserve less rights.

But will you be buying a pair of Toms shoes anytime soon?