The Human Rights Campaign is criticizing retailing companies Target and Best Buy for making a donation to a political group supporting conservative Minnesota House member and gubernatorial hopeful Tom Emmer.
Though both Target and Best Buy have long histories of support for the gay community, the companies were called out for their support of "a rabidly anti-equality candidate" whose alleged ties "to a Christian rock band that advocates violence and death to gays" was also highlighted by HRC.
"When lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers … used to think about Target and Best Buy, we saw two shining examples of corporations that respected the equality and dignity of every American," HRC stated in an open letter to the companies.
"Now, Americans are questioning their loyalty to your brands with word of significant contributions to the political action committee MN Forward that hopes to install one of the most strident opponents of equality in the Minnesota Governor's mansion," the group added.
Target Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel, however, has defended the donation, saying the Minnesota-based discount retailer's political donations are intended to support business objectives such as job creation. The company, he said, remains committed to the gay community.
Critics of HRC's latest move have also defended the ministry that the rights group called out, noting that You Can Run But You Can't Hide (YCR) does not advocate violence and death to gays as some contend but rather preaches that homosexuals "are sinners who, like all sinners, need to be loved and respected as human beings by the church with a view to their redemption and transition."
"For years we have spoken out about the sinfulness of the gay life style without ever suggesting that gays should be subject to any kind of repression, let alone violence, either by the state or any individual or group," stated a note on YRC's website that was posted after a Minnesota journalist "twist[ed] the meaning of [their] ministry" in an article earlier this year.
Back in May, YRC came under fire for remarks made by the ministry's leader and founder, Bradlee Dean, who said on his ministry's local radio station that Muslims calling for the execution of homosexuals are "more moral than even the American Christians."
"It shows you that they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws," Dean said on YCR's May 15 radio show. "They know homosexuality is an abomination."
Dean also accused gay activists who call conservative Christians "bigots" and "tyrants" of "play[ing] the victim when, in fact, they are the predator."
While Dean's remarks drew fire from even some Christian groups, HRC critics say the ministry leader's comments are unrelated to gubernatorial hopeful Emmer, whose press secretary affirmed the candidate's opposition to violence against homosexuals.
"Tom's position on social issues has been very clear and consistent. He is a supporter of traditional marriage, and he strongly opposes any kind of violence or unfair discrimination against any group," Christ Van Guilder reported in a statement on behalf of Emmer.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Emmer said the flap over the recent corporate donations to the pro-jobs group MN Forward "seems to be more personal."
"The sad part to me is, I thought we were supposed to be able to exercise our rights of free speech," said the Republican lawmaker. "We're supposed to celebrate the fact that we have different perspectives."
Emmer also said that people upset over the donation are missing the big picture.