TOMS Founder Distances Company From Focus on the Family

The founder of TOMS, the charity-business that gives away a pair of shoe for every one sold, apologized Saturday to upset gay rights and feminist advocates for speaking at Focus on the Family.

Blake Mycoskie wrote on his blog that had he “known the full extent of Focus on the Family’s belief,” he would have declined the invitation to speak at FOTF’s “Feet On The Ground” event on June 30. He described the acceptance to speak at the event as an “oversight” and “one we chose poorly.”

“[L]et me clearly state that both TOMS, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all,” wrote Mycoskie. “That belief is a core value of the company and of which we are most proud.”

Christianity Today first reported that Mycoskie and FOTF were seemingly developing a relationship where the Colorado-based pro-family group might help TOMS in its charity distribution in Africa. Word quickly spread about this TOMS-FOTF potential partnership and the rumor that FOTF is a TOMS giving partner, which Mycoskie denies in his blog response.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocates took to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and websites to call on Mycoskie to end TOMS partnership with FOTF, which they labeled as an anti-gay and a right-wing, fundamentalist Christian group.

Ms. Magazine began a petition on pressing for an end to TOMS’ relationship with FOTF, which gathered 566 signatures. Some clients and potential clients said they would not buy TOMS shoes because of its connection to FOTF.

“I was getting ready to order myself and my daughter our second pairs of TOMS shoes, but I cannot, in good conscience, do so given this information,” wrote a commenter, identified as Colleen Moore, on the petition webpage.

FOTF, under the former leadership of Dr. James Dobson, was closely tied to the Christian Right agenda. But the group has taken a milder tone on culture war issues under Jim Daly’s leadership, although FOTF is still firmly against abortion and gay marriage.

TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie is an evangelical Christian who attends popular Mosaic Church, led by Pastor Erwin McManus, in Los Angeles. Mycoskie is not shy about talking about his Christian faith and its influence on his business-charity model.

At the 2010 Global Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Community Church, Mycoskie shared, “I think that TOMS represents a lot of different biblical principles but the one that I kind of go back to again and again is in Proverbs, where it says ‘give your first fruits and your vats will be full.’”

The young entrepreneur says the Bible and C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity are among his favorite books. But Mycoskie, like a growing number of young evangelicals, has stayed away from culture war issues and focuses his efforts instead on battling humanitarian problems.

As of this article, Focus on the Family has not issued a response to Mycoskie’s blog post.

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