Major retail companies have severed ties with an online Christian shopping mall just days after advocates of Internet pornography launched an e-mail campaign against retailers doing business with the faith-based organization.
Nordstrom, J.C. Penney and FTD have all disassociated themselves from KingdomBuy.com, which supports various Christian organizations through monetary donations. KingdomBuy has agreements with more than 200 retail companies, which donate about 5 percent of purchases through KingdomBuy’s website to the Christian organization of the shopper’s choice.
For example, if a shopper wants to buy something from Wal-Mart – a KingdomBuy affiliate – he can buy the item at Wal-Mart’s online store through KingdomBuy.com’s website. A certain percentage of the purchase price will then be routed through KingdomBuy to the shopper’s previously designated Christian group.
About 9,000 groups receive money through the program, including the American Family Association, which has a link to KingdomBuy.com on its website. Members of a club advocating Internet pornography got wind of AFA’s affiliation with KingdomBuy and began an e-mail campaign against retail outlets associated with the program.
Yahoo.com’s 11,500-member club called “Don’t close adult clubs” was formed after Yahoo announced it would begin phasing out its pornographic store items. The phase-out began in part due to AFA’s correspondence with Yahoo, insisting the pornographic items be removed. As a result, visitors to Yahoo.com founded the club. The club’s email campaign was designed to cut funding to the AFA by reducing the number of KingdomBuy’s retail affiliates.
A sample e-mail letter taken from message #3983 at the Yahoo club instructs members who wish to participate in the anti-AFA campaign:
I would suggest that sending “threatening” messages to various companies would probably not have a tendency to have the desired effect … Whatever is sent should be somewhat cordial and well thought out … Here is a draft of a letter I have been personally working on lately:
To Whom It May Concern:
It has come to our attention that your company is associated with the American Family Association’s online shopping website entitled “Kingdombuy.com.” This organization, while claiming to be “pro-family,” is actually in effect pro-censorship who’s [sic] tactics include, but are not limited to, activism which promotes the creation and/or changing of state and national laws which severly limits [sic] individuals’ rights of free choice. We find this organization’s viewpoints and tactics extremely narrow-minded and oftentimes underhanded.
We have done [sic] numerous purchases of products from your business in the past. Your company is, of course, free to support, associate and align itself with whatever organizations it sees fit. However, we, in good conscience, choose not to do business with or purchase products from a company that chooses to associate itself with an organization so adamant in their desire to strip people of their freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of individual choice. Therefore, we have decided to cease purchasing items from your business until such time that you decide against allying yourselves with such organizations. This is an issue we feel strongly about, and we hope you will take this letter into consideration.
This would, of course, only tend to be appropriate with businesses that you have actually purchased products from in the past. :) If anyone has any suggestions for a more “generalized” letter to send to various businesses, I’m sure posting those suggestions would be appreciated by many here …
But KingdomBuy’s founder and president Gary Sutton said the only people who will suffer are those who are served by the Christian organizations his group supports.
“That’s who the victim is here – it’s not AFA, it’s not Kingdom Buy. The real victims are the hundreds of thousands of people, including starving children who would benefit from the work done by our Christian partners,” he said.
KingdomBuy.com supports missionaries, churches, faith-based feeding programs for needy children and families, schools and many more groups around the world, including the AFA – a non-profit, traditional-values organization based in Tupelo, Miss. According to Sutton, the AFA receives less than 1 percent of KingdomBuy’s total contributions.
According to AFA spokesman Ed Vitagliano, the retailers he spoke with denied their decisions were based on the e-mail campaign, which began on or about May 12. Nevertheless, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney both notified Sutton of their decisions to terminate ties with KingdomBuy on May 18. FTD decided on May 25. In all, 10 companies disassociated themselves with Sutton’s group, including Ritz Camera, Tobasco and Brookstone – and all 10 decisions were made between May 14 and May 25.
Avon initially put KingdomBuy on notice that it would also cancel its association with the group but decided several days later to continue doing business with the program.
“It’s unfortunate that these major retailers like Nordstrom, JC Penney, FTD and others have unwittingly fallen victim to this sex-club scheme,” Sutton continued, noting that the retailers probably did not know the e-mails they received were generated from the club. “The bottom line is they now know, and for whatever reason … they’re choosing to stick with their original decision.”
Before this incident, no major retailer had dropped KingdomBuy during the program’s nearly year-long lifespan.
Nordstrom told Vitagliano it has a policy prohibiting affiliation with religious-based groups. With 5,000 affiliate websites, the retail giant had accidentally let KingdomBuy fall through the cracks.
“AFA is very disappointed that religious companies are not welcome in the Nordstrom family of affiliate partners. Religion is not anything to be ashamed of, and it’s certainly nothing to be shunned. We are calling upon Nordstrom to open the door back up to KingdomBuy.com,” Vitagliano remarked.
Neither Nordstrom nor J.C. Penney returned calls for comment.
Other retailers still affiliated with KingdomBuy.com as of press time include Dell Computer, Office Max, Hickory Farms, Harry and David, American Express, 1-800-Flowers and many more.