boycotting marriott?

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.

14 thoughts on “boycotting marriott?”

  1. Without Marriott having done anything to support the ban beyond its major shareholders’ membership and participation in the Mormon church, wouldn’t boycotting them be religious discrimination?

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  2. You can’t discriminate against Marriott Hotel if you’re boycotting them. They’re not a religious organization, and they no particular rights not to be discriminated against. Wasn’t there an uproar about this with the APSA?

    Regardless, I feel the boycott should go forward given the recent chain of events, and I know certain sections of the ASA would not tolerate anything but.

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  3. Actually, if the hotel group HAD given money in support of the ban, I would be open to a boycott. I would also be open to a boycott if they had major labor issues at a local hotel.

    What strikes me as odd is boycotting because of some really weak association. I think it’s completely reasonable to hold people accountable for political decisions you disagree with. I just don’t think it’s reasonable to hold people accountable for ALL decisions made by institutions they’re associated with.

    How many of us are members of Universities that have policies we disagree with? Should we be judged because of those associations?

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  4. @3: My point is that the to-be-boycotted organization didn’t do anything to support Prop 8. This boycott is targeted at a rich guy, simply because he is Mormon. Just because you can boycott something, it doesn’t follow that it’s the right thing to do.

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  5. Yeah, this doesn’t make any sense. A lot of Christians voted for prop 8, but we aren’t boycotting hotel chains owned by Christians. If they were instrumental in providing financing, then yes, boycott. You can’t fault a whole group of people because other people who are like them in one respect or another have done something you don’t like.

    Although on the other hand, as I think about it a bit more, I don’t think there is anything wrong with pressuring the Marriott family to exert some influence over their brothern…

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  6. One thing to consider is what the point of a boycott would be. If the point is to put economic pressure on the Marriott family to stop supporting their church, I don’t think a boycott would accomplish that (and it is questionable whether that is a good goal). If the goal is to diminish their profits and hence reduce the amount of money they have to give to their church, it would make more sense although realistically still not do much.

    I agree that the fault lies more with the insufficient efforts put out by groups that opposed the ban. If there had been the current level of visibility and opposition to the ban before the election, we might have seen a different result.

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  7. Um, why would people want to boycott a hotel whose major stockholder is a family with a religious belief whose organization supported the ban, but still have the conference in the state whose electorate voted for the ban?

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  8. Jeez, Jeremy, that’s what I was going to say… the analog to the APSA’s debate over whether to meet in New Orleans is whether we ought to meet in SF at all, not at which hotel.

    A couple of other things:
    1.) The Renaissance Parc 55 is a Marriott Hotel, so it’s an issue this year too, not just next year.
    2.) Politics is ultimately symbolic, so the fact that the sheer amount of money involved wouldn’t pressure Marriott to change isn’t actually relevant.
    3.) While I tend to agree that the connection is a little distant, it’s hard to muster too much sympathy for Marriott Corp. here. Maybe if enough groups boycott them they’d advocate for marriage equality?

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  9. Yeah, let’s boycott San Francisco! That’ll show’em, you betchya!

    Plus, the facilities (especially at the Marriott) are not adequate for the ASA. The rooms are too small and the breakout rooms are inadequate for section activity. It was awful last time. And, I hate San Francisco, it’s always cold, the inequalities are stifling, and the bike rental shops suck.

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