Beliefnet News

by Catherine Snow

Gay activists didn’t like that a popular shoe company was sharing the work it does with a Christian ministry that affirms biblical marriage. So, they set off an online firestorm — and ultimately pressured the founder of TOMS Shoes to issue an apology on Saturday for ever having appeared at an event with Focus on the Family.

At issue? Blake Mycoskie, TOMS founder and “chief shoe giver,” appeared alongside Focus President Jim Daly at the June 30 “Feet on the Ground” event and shared how his Christian faith led him to start the company. The sold-out event raised awareness — and shoes — for people in need around the world. TOMS, a for-profit company, donates a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. The espadrille-like shoes appeal particularly to social justice-minded Millennials.

Mycoskie’s mea culpa said in part:

“Had I known the full extent of Focus on the Family’s beliefs, I would not have accepted the invitation to speak at their event. It was an oversight on my part and the company’s part and one we regret. In the last 18 months we have presented at over 70 different engagements and we do our best to make sure we choose our engagements wisely, on this one we chose poorly.

“So there is no misunderstanding created by this mistake, let me clearly state that both TOMS, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all. That belief is a core value of the company and of which we are most proud.”

Gary Schneeberger, vice president of Ministry Communications for Focus, said the whole turn-of-events was surprising.

“It’s perplexing to think that the same voices who champion ‘equal rights for all’ seem so intent on limiting our opportunities to help children in need through wonderful programs like TOMS,” he said. “How distressing that Christians seem to be the only ones not tolerated in our culture of tolerance.”

Daly agreed.

“This is an unfortunate statement about the culture we live in, when an organization like ours is deemed unfit to help children in need simply because we hold to biblical beliefs about marriage and family,” Daly added. “It’s also a chilling statement about the future of the culture we live in. We have to wonder: What will someone decide we’re unfit to do next?”

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