No to Church, Says Starbucks

The founder and CEO cancels an appearance at a leadership conference sponsored by a church that endorses conversion therapy

You may enjoy that sip of Starbucks coffee a little more today knowing that the company recently gave a “pray the gay away” church a bit of a scalding. Starbucks Founder and CEO Howard Schultz was invited to the Willow Creek Community Church for its annual leadership summit, only to back out of the engagement. And while no explanation has yet to be given, many believe Starbucks was hoping to avoid any controversy in being associated with the conservative – and what many call an “anti-gay” – church.

Recently a petition gained some ground that let Starbucks know that the South Barrington, Ill., church has had a long relationship with Exodus International, one of the best-known and largest organizations in the country behind reparative or conversation therapy touted as being able to “turn” gay people straight.

Perhaps Starbucks is minding its Ps and especially it’s Qs after a few other incidences have landed the company in hot water with gay rights activists? While the coffee company (which has received a 100 percent rating in the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index) has been vocal about its support of diversity over the years, there was a dust up in New York earlier this summer after a gay employee was fired for “discussing his personal life,” alleges the Advocate. It inspired one customer to contact Starbucks, but not before blogging about what she saw at the Long Island shop.

After that incident, this is what Starbucks  had to say in an open letter:

“Starbucks has supported the LGBT community for many years, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. We have one of the largest Employer Resource Groups for LGBT employees in the United States helping to raise awareness about issues in communities in which we live and work. Our benefits program has always offered domestic partner benefits in the United States and Canada, and Starbucks partners actively participate and organize local LGBT events in their communities.”

Do you think the coffee chain should make a statement about this latest debacle with the church? Or is it enough that the company’s CEO opted out of the appearance?