Florida church boycotts Pepsi over sponsorship of LGBT events

by Joseph Erbentraut
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Sep 16, 2009

When the Bell Shoals Baptist Church of Brandon chose to remove its 10 Pepsi soda vending machines from its premises to boycott the company's efforts to help "establish a homosexual activist group" earlier this month, the action received national media attention.

Bell Shoals' boycott of PepsiCo and its support of Chicago's Citywide Pride events and other LGBT causes is part of a nationwide effort being led by the American Family Association. It is the latest of a series of boycotts launched against companies some social conservatives contend promote what they routinely describe as the homosexual agenda. And Justin Nelson, president of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce pointed out similar campaigns have criticized Disney, American Airlines, McDonald's and other companies.

Nelson described these boycott efforts of the AFA and other "fringe" groups as a "boycott of the week." He said the Bell Shoals Church and other local congregations' decision to replace the Pepsi products with equally pro-gay Coke machines was"absurd." And White added he did not feel the boycott would make much of an impact on Pepsi's decision to reach out to LGBT consumers.

"Anytime you continually do something, your effort begins to lose steam and over the last five years these organizations have upped their visibility" Nelson said. "But the vast majority of companies are continuing to move in the direction of equality, diversity and inclusion because it makes good business sense. It's not a culture war."

Nelson spoke of only one recent example--McDonald's--where a company caved under pressure as a result of a boycott from the right. The fast-food chain discontinued its support of the NGLCC and other LGBT causes last year. Nelson said American Airlines, on the other hands, have flourished in their efforts to reach out to gay consumers.

"More and more companies are getting it and are doing the right thing, ensuring they have a workplace that welcomes all employees, stores that welcome all companies and a supply chain open to diverse suppliers," Nelson continued as he noted the majority of Fortune 100 companies offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex partners. "They are realizing what diversity is, and it's really not a radical thought."

In response to the boycott, PepsiCo has avoided speaking extensively to EDGE and other media. The company did issue a statement that read "[at] PepsiCo, we believe that diversity and equality are benchmarks of our business, and we work hard to foster an inclusive environment where all our employees feel comfortable."

R. Zeke Fread, director of Pride Tampa Bay, is part of a letter-writing campaign he hopes will elicit a more specific response from PepsiCo. He described those behind the local boycott effort as "religious fanatics." And Fread added he has received many e-mail messages from those affiliated with other Christian groups who opposed the PepsiCo boycott.

"They have declared a culture war against the LGBT community and they aren't being true Christians," he said. "The true Christians are the ones jumping off the boat and saying, 'We don't support these people,'" Fread said. "Switching to Coke machines is not going to change anyone's hearts and minds. Their war is lost."

Fread said he is unaware of other religious groups making similar efforts. He added a local effort is building for a pro-Pepsi rally in downtown Tampa, which is located less than 10 miles to the west of Brandon.

"We can ill afford to let the voices of the anti-gay, ultra-right conservatives to be the only ones heard, we have to have ours heard too," Fread said.

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to to read more of his work.


  • talky_tina, 2009-09-09 14:07:34

    Where is Coca-Cola on this issue? I don’t drink Pepsi but I support their courageous stand on gay equality. The theocrats have no say in abridging the rights of any U.S. citizen.

  • , 2009-09-09 14:10:52

    God Loves all his children! He is the only one that will judge everyone in the end, so I think it’s time God’s people start acting as they should. Like the Bible says "Judge not that ye be judged". Love everyone! Rock on pepsi, for I’ve never been a coke drinker. Cheers with Dr. Pepper :) 24

  • , 2009-09-09 14:15:32

    I think this is too funny because Coke not only has a 100% on the Human Rights Campaign CEI, but they also sponsor Pride events, including Minneapolis / St. Paul Pride which is the 3rd largest in the country.

  • , 2009-09-09 20:43:26

    Today gays are targeted, tomorrow, who know who else will be considered, "undesirable". People both gay and straight need to start standing up to this before it gets out of control. Separation of church and state!!!!If religion should be the standard to which every American is subject, then which religion? In the future, if the world’s second largest religion, the Islamic religion, is favored and the population in the Islamic community grows substantially higher, should Americans then be subject to the concepts and laws of that particular religion? I’m buying Pepsi now. Thanks for your support! Straights are starting to see how dangerous it is to stay silent. National Marriage Boycotts are taking place. I join Americans United for separation of church and state. It’s time we all stand against this intolerance or next time it might be your families targeted!

  • , 2009-09-09 23:36:35

    Its not about intolerance. Its about standing up for what we believe in. The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin. It doesn’t say to hate gays, it actually says to love them, just to hate the sinful lifestyle they choose. So stop taking choice verses out of context because you clearly have not read the rest of it. And this country is not about the latest big religion. This country was founded on Biblical values. Not a complete lack of standards. Those values are what has held this country together so far. So stop spreading lies about something you clearly know nothing about.

  • , 2009-09-10 00:08:17

    Equality is inevitable. Through all of the chaos, the Constitution of the United States will prevail and equality will be granted to all of the citizens.That’s why this document is so amazing. It’s just a really hard time right now, because offices are opening up on both side of this debate and people are making entire careers out of this hatred. The Church no longer has the red scare to get people to dig deeply into their pockets, so now the new focus is on people with genetically predisposed sexual orientations. The shame in that is that the Church is driving some people away from the Word of God. Jesus didn’t say to go out and find perfect people for My flock. All people are called, irrespective of their spiritual realities and then, it is the Word of God that transforms those in contact with the Spirit of God. For Church leaders to draw a line in the sand and reject thousands of people based on sexual orientation is short sighted. It’s likely a test for those in power. No man has the last say over who will be accepted into the Kingdom. The Reader of hearts has the capacity to understand people on levels that man cannot even fathom. It would be unwise to hold brothers and sisters in judgement, just to win an earthly debate.

  • , 2009-09-10 00:16:50

    Jesus never talked about gays, nor are gays mentioned in the Ten Commandments, nor in the Summary of the Law. No prophet expounds upon gays. It really wasn’t that concerning in early churches. Being judgmental is the worse offense. That’s spoken of so often that it would seem to be the more important lesson for us. I question the faith of any Church leader who wallows in politics in order to plant spiritual seeds. It’s futility. It’s striving for the wind and feeding on it. It’s time to teach transformative Word, let Wisdom prevail, and leave politics to the world. You’ll honor the God for whom you so often speak, changing hearts in a more permanent fashion. People are being driven away from the message. Is that wise? For the religious minded, bear in mind that the dollars donated to church coiffures, is being thrown down a political rat hole. Even if NOM or any church leader succeeds in changing the laws, those laws stand to be overturned in a matter of years. All of this effort and money and time will have been futile. For those really wanting to transform hearts, spread the Gospel, and Glorify their Father, they would be wiser to take these donated dollars and humbly emulate Christ Jesus. The Lord did not use politics to heal and spread the Word of His Father. Jesus didn’t run to Herod and ask him to impose His Father’s Laws onto the people for Him. Our Saviour, Jesus, taught, transformed, and healed. Even Herod Antipas was moved by John the Baptist’s words, though not enough to refuse Salome’s request for his head. Every person breathing has a chance to be moved by the Spirit and these concepts, if even for a fleeting moment.

  • Thad, 2009-09-12 01:30:53

    Pepsi is a supporter of Dallas Pride. And I love them for it.

  • , 2009-09-16 04:34:15

    I think that we need to own share in Pepsi . You open a drip for 250.00 but haviing a vote on the board would make an impact Horace

  • , 2009-09-16 10:36:43

    Although the focus here tends to center on conservative religious ideology and GLBT support, I think that the key point that is being missed by everyone is MONEY. Corporations only support our community because they know they can make money off of us, plain and simple, and this in turn helps that forever holy corporate bottom line......Think about it... In today’s economy, companies are desperate for money like everyone else, so they tap into new "market niches" (minority communities including the GLBT community) to increase their yearly sales benchmark. And many will have their own GLBT specific sales and marketing team in place to help them accomplish this. The result ??? A few "GL" corporate sell-outs getting promotions by exploiting the community to make money for their company while preaching corporate rhetoric to the public that this somehow makes their company GLBT friendly...........The reality is folks that despite all of the fraudulent 100% CEI index ratings and the corporate "sponsorships", GLBT employees are still getting discriminated against in these companies !! Only the public doesn’t hear about it because it is carefully covered-up by these "GL" corporate sales people, the GLBT media (who are often recipients of corporate sponsorship dollars) and that prestigious bastion of "GL" capitalism known as the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.......... Mr. White, I am not surprised in the least by your support for the airline you cite. After all, the GLBT diverse segment sales and marketing person for that airline currently sits on your board of directors so its no surprise why you kiss their ass and provide good will word of mouth advertising for them. How many free travel vouchers do you and the rest of the board receive from this person to cover-up what really goes on at that company ????...............Thank you for your time.

  • , 2009-09-16 19:41:32

    the queers are wanting to take over

  • fern , 2009-09-19 01:00:51

    The good Christians do not use the boycott weapon, they merely follow the word of God and God appeared in that church and said "y’all too fat; cut on the soda and lose a few pounds".

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