Social media is ablaze with recent comments by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on those who support traditional marriage. The headline I have seen all over Facebook is “If You Support Marriage, We Don’t Want Your Business.” I found that strange, not because I doubted that Schultz supported same-sex marriage but I found it hard to believe that he was really rejecting all the business of those who support traditional marriage. From a purely financial perspective, that is rather foolish. Since I am skeptical by nature, I decided to look into it.
Doing a search, I discovered that it was not really an attack on customers who support traditional marriage (he doesn’t even mention customers), but a discussion with a shareholder. One article titled “Starbucks CEO: No Tolerance for Traditional Marriage Supporters” expresses the outrage that conservatives have toward what the CEO said. If there is no tolerance for traditional marriage supporters, conservatives should be upset. But what did Schultz really say?
It really would be good to find out what he says rather than just read about how upset people are. You can find the actual comments by Schultz here. Please pay careful attention to what Schultz says. The shareholder makes note that Starbuck’s endorsement of same-sex marriage has had some financial implications. How does Schultz respond?
“Not every decision is an economic decision. Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38% shareholder return over the last year. I don’t know how many things you invest in, but I would suspect not many things, companies, products, investments have returned 38% over the last 12 months. Having said that, it is not an economic decision to me. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds.”
Schultz then goes on to make the statement that has gotten everyone all upset: “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”
What is Schultz saying here? Is he saying that he does not want Starbucks customers who support traditional marriage? No. Is he saying that he does not want shareholders who support traditional marriage? No. He is saying that if a shareholder is not happy with the financial consequences of the company supporting same-sex marriage, there are other companies that they can invest in. That is not an offensive comment at all.
Let me make things clear. I am a supporter of traditional marriage. As an ordained minister, I have never performed a same-sex wedding and I never will. However, I am also someone who values the truth. I understand that Christians want to stand up for the biblical worldview. That is my desire and there are plenty of battles for us to fight. But it does not help our case at all to twist the facts.
What does a non-Christian think when they hear Christians proclaiming that the Starbucks CEO has stated he does not want any business from traditional marriage supporters when he has not said anything like that at all? They are going to question other things we say. How often have we twisted the facts or neglected to do our homework for the sake of a claim with rhetorical punch? I urge my Christian brothers and sisters to fight for the truth, but do it by getting the facts right and not by making statements that just feel right.
If you are interested in more, I have a short podcast episode called “When It Feels True” that relates to this issue.