So I’ve been getting a series of emails exploring the idea of boycotting Marriott hotels. More specifically, about setting up a boycott against the Marriott at our Annual Conference in two years at ASA (in Atlanta, where the Marriott is one of the conference hotels). The argument is this:
1.) The Marriott family is Mormon.
2.) They own an enormous stake in the company that bears their name (it is public, though)
3.) The family tithes to the Church (10% – it’s a tithe! – and they’re rich so that’s a lot of money).
4.) The church was one of the main organizers to help ban gay marriage in CA (by some accounts, the church and its members were responsible for 77% of the funding for the ban).
5.) Marriott hotels should be boycotted, particularly by the ASA.
As much as folks have been trying to convince me that it makes sense to boycott Marriott, I’m not convinced. Indeed, I don’t think it makes sense (but perhaps you all will disagree). Here’s why:
1.) I think religious tithing is like a tax. It’s an obligation of observers to their church. And while people may have an obligation to speak up within their churches about what they believe, I don’t think they can be held accountable for everything a church does (though in extreme cases they might be asked why they didn’t leave the church). I pay taxes. I don’t agree with everything the state does. You might think, “but giving money to a church is voluntary.” I don’t think that that is so clear. If you believe and are a member, it really isn’t.
2.) The Marriott hotels have one of the best records from the Human Rights Campaign of any corporate body. On the HRC’s equity index they received a 100%.
3.) As far as I can tell, the Marriott family gave no financial support for the ban.
4.) The hotel group gave no support for the ban.
The folks are Marriott are obviously scared about this. The rhetoric around this is getting pretty heated. I’m not willing to blame all Mormons (or Catholics) for what happened. Instead, I’m inclined to fault the organizational strategy of those against the ban. But I think it is interesting to ask when people can/should be held to account for the actions of organizations they support. The answer for me is not that clear. Maybe I’m missing something on this Marriott ban. But it seems wrong-headed to me.