Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the Commonwelth Club of California on April 4, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America)
Already catching heat for how a café manager allegedly berated and fired a gay employee, the CEO of Starbucks suddenly cancelled an appearance at Willow Creek Community Church this week after an online petition insisted he denounce the mega-church's views on homosexuality.
Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks, was scheduled to deliver a talk Friday titled "How Starbucks Fought for its Life Without Losing Its Soul" during the annual leadership summit sponsored by Willow Creek Association, an international association of churches based in South Barrington.
Though Starbucks confirmed Schultz no longer planned to be there, the company would not attribute it to a campaign launched last week calling on Schultz to denounce the church's stance before the event.
Earlier this summer, the coffee company announced an investigation of allegations that an openly gay New York barista was fired for discussing his personal life because Starbucks had "zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind."
With that in mind, activist Asher Huey of Washington, D.C., criticized Schultz for agreeing to appear at a church with a longstanding membership in Exodus International, a ministry that believes homosexual behavior is destructive and Christians can "grow into heterosexuality."
"The church that is sponsoring the event ... has a long history of anti-gay persecution," wrote Huey, who gathered more than 700 signatures at www.change.org.
But the church's membership in Exodus ended in 2009 when the church re-evaluated all of its healing ministries for people facing addiction, divorce, cancer or sexual identity issues, said church spokeswoman Susan DeLay. She said Willow's views had evolved since signing up for Exodus decades ago.
"They were one of the few Christian organizations having conversations with people who struggle with being gay," she said.
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SOURCE: Chicago Tribune