Starbucks is in a flap on Friday after its CEO, Howard Schultz, begged off a speaking engagement with the a Chicago-area church that was to have been broadcast widely to other sites. Schultz canceled on Willow Creek Church's two-day Global Leadership Summit at the last minute as a petition at Change.org calling for him not to attend the event gained just fewer than 800 signatures. The petition said Schultz's appearance was "unacceptable" because of the church's "anti-gay views." Compared to the online audience of 150,000 and the 1,100 who paid to attend, that's a pretty small number. It's likely that the petition may have gone unnoticed (or at least that Starbucks would have ignored it), were it not for an unfortunate event in one of the company's stores back in June.
Homophobia is a touchy thing for Starbucks these days, ever since a Long Island blogger posted a lengthy report in June about Starbucks employees in a store there going on a homophobic rant about a gay co-worker. The blogger, Alison, wrote that a woman who appeared to be an executive led "one of the most brazen and unapologetic displays of homophobia I have ever witnessed in my entire life" against an employee named Jeffrey, who she yelled at and then forced to resign.