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Apple removes iTunes from online Christian mall after 22,000 sign petition

Stephen Baldwin threatens 20-year-old activist with legal action

Twenty-year-old university student Ben Crowther led a successful petition to get Apple to sever ties with a controversial Christian fundraiser. Credit: courtesy Ben Crowther
Apple has announced it is severing ties with a controversial, for-profit online Christian mall that raises money for known hate groups that target homosexuals, following a change.org petition campaign that racked up 22,000 signatures in three weeks.
 
Twenty-year-old university student Ben Crowther, of Bellingham, Washington, launched the petition for Apple to cut ties to the Christian Values Network after learning that the shopping portal raises money for controversial groups like Focus on the Family and Family Research Council, which have lobbied against gay rights.
 
Christian Values Network is a for-profit company that acts as a portal to online retailers. They receive a commission on every sale they refer and donate a portion of the proceeds to a Christian organization of the user’s choosing. Among the organizations users can select are a number that have been labelled hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
 
  
Since Xtra’s last report, Delta, Wells Fargo and Macy’s have all asked to be removed from CVN’s website. Microsoft had requested to be removed from the site prior to the launch of Crowther’s Apple petition.
 
It also appears that Banana Republic, GAP, Old Navy and Walmart are no longer listed with CVN, although it is not yet clear why.
 
Despite the petition’s success in getting some companies off CVN, many of those companies are still listed on a competing Christian shopping portal called goodsource.org. That site also raises money for Focus on the Family and Family Research Council. Still involved with Goodsource are Microsoft, Apple, Delta, Macy’s, Banana Republic, GAP, Old Navy and Walmart.
 
Other major retailers involved with one or both sites include Target, Kmart, Best Buy, Aéropostale, American Eagle, Bloomingdale’s, Budget Rent-a-Car, Crate & Barrel, Dell, Days Inn, Comfort Inn, Disney, Ed Hardy, Eddie Bauer, Electronic Arts, Garage, Hanes, HBO, Home Depot, J Crew, Jockey, Lancôme, Levi’s, Lowes, Marriott, Marvel Comics, NBC, NBA, Netflix, New York Times, PetSmart, Reebok, Roots, Sam’s Club, Sears, Staples, Time-Life and Warner Bros, among others.
 
Hundreds of stores are listed on both sites, although Goodsource is considerably larger. See a complete list of stores involved with CVN or Goodsource.
  
Similar change.org petitions started by others are now calling on Netflix to cut ties with CVN and are asking CVN to stop sponsoring anti-gay hate groups.
 
“From the beginning, I knew that once this issue was brought to Apple’s attention, they would not want to be a part of CVN,” Crowther says in a press release from change.org. “Apple is a fair-minded business. I’m glad this petition helped make Apple aware of this issue, and I am thrilled that they removed iTunes from CVN.”
 
Crowther says that he’s unsure who he’ll target next but that he hopes his petition and the awareness it’s raised will convince retailers to jump off CVN voluntarily.
 
“A bunch of retailers are realizing, ‘Oh crap, we don’t want to be a part of this.’ We’ll wait and see who leaves on their own and then pick out another big company that we’ll encourage to leave,” he says.
 
CVN founder and president John Higgins previously told Xtra that he’s not concerned with the exodus of major retailers from his site.
 
“As far as any shopping partner not wanting to participate, that’s their prerogative,” he said.
 
But CVN spokesperson and former actor Stephen Baldwin took to Twitter this week, through his personal account and the account associated with his radio show, to publicly warn Crowther that his petition may spark legal action from CVN for libel, collusion and anti-trust against change.org, Crowther and change.org LGBT issues manager Joe Mirabella.
 
@JoeMirabella,” was Tweeted from @BMXRadio. “[T]hough you’ve now laid a great foundation for anti-trust action against yourself, change.org, and competing giveback org’s.”
 
@BenCrowther. I’ve been telling you for days you should check yourself: http://bit.ly/CrowthersMailbox,” was sent from @StephenBaldwin7.
Crowther says he targeted CVN because he found its messaging and association with hate groups most problematic.
 
“The hard part is there’s many websites like Goodsearch and CVN, and many of those websites have hundreds of stores,” he says. “I don’t know the background of Goodsearch. I don’t know if they have the same reputation that CVN does. CVN is especially proud of its association with hate groups. That’s why we targeted CVN.
 
“We’re not saying specifically we want CVN to go under, but that’s who we’re looking at now. We’re not saying we won’t go after anyone else in the future.”