It’s been a rough year for the Ford Motor Company. Between the continuing stagnation of the state economy, a sharp decrease in sales and extensive plans for layoffs and factory closings, there seems to be little respite from the bad news piling upon the back of Michigan’s auto industry. However, with all of the current problems Ford is facing, the one that should be met with the least amount of concern is the company’s battle with the Christian conservatives at the American Family Association.
In a letter sent last week to the chairman of Ford, the AFA threatened to call a boycott as a means of pressuring Ford to heed its rhetoric by discriminating against the gay community. The AFA, which claims to stand for “traditional family values,” argues that Ford’s advertisements in gay-interest publications, employee benefits for same-sex partners and sponsorship of gay rights groups denotes its support for a nationwide agenda aimed at the “destruction of the family.” Ford initially promised the AFA that it would pull its ads from the magazines and stop sponsoring gay rights groups, but after complaints from gay rights activists, it changed its mind and continued placing ads in the magazines.
Thankfully, Ford does not seem especially concerned with the implications of this recent threat from the three-million-member AFA. Nor should it be. Although the threat of a boycott may sound like a headache for the company’s executives, it does not constitute a legitimate threat to the organization’s livelihood.
More important than economics, however, is the obvious ethical rationale why standing by its policies is the right position for Ford to take. Ceding to the AFA’s demands would not only constitute a major step back for the company, but would also alienate consumers who support gay rights as well as gay workers within the company.
In this case, as with so many others, the AFA and other conservative fringe organizations simply don’t seem to get it. These self-proclaimed soldiers of the “culture war” are fighting a losing battle against a growing movement to guarantee equality to all citizens. Christian conservative groups like the AFA will always find something to boycott. Whether it’s holiday greetings or advertising in gay-interest magazines, corporations like Ford must realize that when the AFA starts kicking and screaming, there’s no reason to be alarmed.