Apple has removed their iTunes store from the "Christan Values Network" (CVN.org) after more than 22,000 people signed a petition on Change.org started by Ben Crowther, a student and Apple customer concerned about CVN's funding of anti-gay, anti-women organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.
The Apple campaign, which picked up significant momentum after 13,000 AllOut.org members signed another petition on Thursday, follows Microsoft's decision to leave CVN two weeks ago, prompted by another customer-driven campaign on Change.org. Several other companies have removed their online stores since then, including REI, Macy's, Delta Airlines, BBC America, and Wells Fargo.
"From the beginning, I knew that once this issue was brought to Apple's attention, they would not want to be a part of CVN because it funds anti-gay hate groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council," said Change.org petition starter Ben Crowther. "Apple is a fair-minded business. I'm glad this petition helped make Apple aware of this issue, and I am thrilled that they removed iTunes from CVN."
Crowther is no stranger to anti-gay bullying. It started in high school when he and his boyfriend were only the second gay couple to come out to their classmates. "The harassment got so bad I had to go to the principal," Crowther told Change.org. In college, Crowther's dorm room door was regularly vandalized with anti-gay slurs. "I no longer live in the dorms because the bullying was so bad," he said.
The list of companies backing away from CVN continues to grow. When asked why Macy's removed their store from CVN.org, a Macy's spokesperson told Change.org, "Macy's serves a diverse society. As such, we are deeply committed to a philosophy of inclusion in the way we operate our business and support our communities," Macy's said. "We welcome all customers into our stores."
On July 14 the Wells Fargo and Delta Airlines online stores were removed from CVN. Prior to removing their store, Wells Fargo was offering up to $300 to the religious charity of the shopper's choice, money that could be donated to "Focus on the Family" or the Family Research Council. Delta offered $3.00 per ticket.
Jessica Beavers, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo told Change.org that "occasionally team members may act on their own to place ads on various sites that do not meet Wells Fargo's brand and marketing standards. We requested the removal of this ad because it was not compliant with Wells Fargo's brand and marketing standers."
On July 13 BBC pulled the BBC America Shop from CVN.
"BBC America Shop was not aware of CVN.org's current donation policies," April Mulcair, BBC's VP of Publicity, told UK Gay News in a statement. "We have ended our relationship with this affiliate effective immediately."
On July 7 Microsoft pulled their online store from the Christian Values Network after a Change.org petition started by Seattle resident and Microsoft customer Stuart Wilber highlighted several anti-gay groups raising money through the Christian Values Network.
The Focus on the Family website contains anti-gay and anti-transgender content. They describe being gay as "a particularly evil lie of Satan." They also attack transgender people.
Focus on the Family lobbied against several pieces of Federal legislation that would add protections for gays and lesbians under the law. They lobbied to repeal the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill designed to protect people from violent hate crimes based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Focus on the Family also lobbied to stop the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in an effort to prevent gay and lesbian service members from being open about their sexual orientation in the military. They also supported several bills that would make access to health care more difficult for women.
Dozens of major companies like Netflix, Adobe, Target, Best Buy, USA Today, Walgreens, Disney, Budget, Expedia, Travelocity, Scholastic, Dell, Adobe, FTD, Proflowers, Home Depot, Direct TV, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and even Sesame Street participate in CVN's service. When customers make purchases through CVN, a donation is made to the religious charity of the customer's choice. For example, when someone purchases a USA Today subscription, $5.25 can be donated to groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.
The Family Research Council, formerly a part of Focus on the Family, has been identified as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Peter Sprigg, a chief researcher for the Family Research Council, advocated for the deportation and imprisonment of gays and lesbians, according to the SPLC.
Celebrities Stephen Baldwin and Michael Lohan helped launch the Christian Values Network, an online service that raises money for various religious groups from the purchase of goods and services. More than 700 companies are listed at www.cvn.org, the Christian Value Network's domain hosting links to various corporate online stores.
Both Baldwin and Lohan are outspoken about their anti-gay views. Stephen Baldwin told The Guardian in 2010 that he supports so called "ex-gay" therapy, a harmful practice that falsely claims to "cure" people of their sexual orientation. Michael Lohan told reporters in 2008 he would not walk his daughter, Lindsay Lohan, down the aisle if she chose to marry her same-sex partner.
"I don't think she'd ask me to walk her down the aisle," says Michael. "She knows about my (Christian) faith ... She just wouldn't ask."
Former Governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is a Christian Values Network advisor and spokesperson who has posted videos on YouTube supporting the company. In the past, Huckabee has equated being gay with bestiality, necrophilia, and pedophilia.