PepsiCo draws conservative ire for backing gay rights

A group of religious conservatives, ever on the outlook for another group or entity at which to wag a collective, scolding finger, have ratcheted up rhetoric aimed squarely at PepsiCo for its alleged support of "the homosexual agenda."

The American Family Association, which has been promoting a boycott of Pepsi since January, said in a statement Tuesday it has secured more than 500,000 signatures from those pledging to stop buying Pepsi products, which include soft drinks, salty snacks, juices and oatmeal (as if there were anything less wholesome than oatmeal, for chrissake).

AFA's beef with Pepsi is for what it calls the Purchase, N.Y.-based company's financial support of groups promoting the "homosexual agenda." AFA points to two gay-rights groups in particular: Human Rights Campaign and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, better known by the acronym PFLAG.

PepsiCo didn't respond to queries about the boycott, or whether it donates to these groups. But it does note on its website that it earned a top score, 100 percent, in HRC's 2009 Corporate Equality Index, an annual measure of gay-friendly employment policies. PepsiCo achieved the same score in the 2010 index, along with 305 other companies, according to HRC. PFLAG notes on its site that PepsiCo is among its corporate sponsors.

AFA will continue the boycott for as long as PepsiCo continues to support "a lifestyle that is extremely unhealthy and dangerous," said the group's president, Tim Wildmon, in a statement.

The Pepsi boycott seems to be having some effect within the Christian conservative community. Last month, the Westboro Baptist Church, of "God hates fags" fame, protested in downtown Atlanta with signs that read "God hates Diet Pepsi."

AFA, which has targeted Ford, McDonald's and Kraft Foods, has long garnered headlines for attacking what it sees as the lack of values in the modern culture. The organization was founded in 1977 by Wildmon's father, Methodist Pastor Donald Wildmon, who contracted encephalitis in August and remains hospitalized.

Of course the goal is, as with any corporate boycott, to hurt Pepsi where it matters most: the bottom line. "Let them hear your voice by not purchasing their products," AFA urges its members via a video on its website, which accuses Pepsi of lying about its support of gay-rights events, such as New York's annual pride parade.

Has it worked? Well, not so much. On Thursday, PepsiCo reported higher profits in the third quarter, rising 9 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

"PepsiCo's diversified food and beverage portfolio and our advantaged business model continued to drive solid results this quarter," said PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi in a written statement.

Revenues fell 1.4 percent, however, and sales of beverages slipped 6 percent in North America during the quarter. But it blamed that decrease on the recession. There was no mention of AFA or its boycott in the company's earnings release.

So while it isn't clear whether AFA is having an effect on sales of PepsiCo products, one thing is certain: Those cranky conservatives would be less cantankerous if they just had more fiber in their diet.

I hear oatmeal's good.
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