Hipsters and philanthropists-at-heart alike fell for TOMS Shoes' mission: A for-profit footwear company based in Santa Monica founded by former The Amazing Race contestant Blake Mycoskie, TOMS promised to donate a pair of shoes for every pair it sold. It was a nice idea—and the simple canvas shoes available in all sorts of colors and patterns weren't so bad-looking either.
But a few weeks ago, Mycoskie appeared at the (sigh) Irvine Hyatt Regency as a headlining speaker for an event hosted by Focus On the Family, a Christian nonprofit devoted to "helping families thrive." According to its official biography, the organization "[provides] help and resources for couples to build healthy marriages that reflect God's design, and for parents to raise their children according to morals and values grounded in biblical principles."
But with an anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-woman, anti-evolution initiative, Focus On the Family is more a notorious hate group under the guise of a Christian nonprofit, launching websites such as no-moo-lies.com: "Dogs aren't born mooing, and people aren't born gay," the press release stated. In February, CitizenLink, the advocacy division of Focus On the Family, pushed for Republicans to pass strict anti-choice bills paralyzing women's health groups such as Planned Parenthood, in addition to wanting to reinstate "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," repealing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, blocking the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and more. Focus On the Family is also linked to the Family Research Council (FRC), a former division of the organization, both founded by evangelical loon James Dobson. FRC endorses that homosexuality remain a crime in countries such as Uganda, where politicians want gays to be punished with death.
On July 1, the shit hit the fan for Mycoskie and TOMS' largely youthful, crunchy-granola hippie, liberal fan base. That day, Christianity Today reported the TOMS founder was developing a relationship with Focus On the Family, "working to become a TOMS international distributor in Africa." A week later, Mycoskie released a statement via his blog (StartSomethingThatMatters.com), pleading ignorance, claiming he had no idea of the "full extent of Focus On the Family's beliefs" and that "it was an oversight on my part and the company's part and one we regret."
While that's a bit tough to swallow—a quick Google search would have prevented that harmful "oversight" link to one of the most reprehensible, outspoken groups out there, Tom—you are the company you keep, and if TOMS is going to associate with an anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-equality group, then you also have the choice of whether you want to associate yourselves with $45 canvas slip-ons.
Follow me on Twitter: @VickieChang!
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