An evangelical Christian pastor plans to launch a high-profile campaign on Tuesday urging religious followers to load up on Microsoft Corporation stock, in an attempt to halt the organisation’s gay rights efforts.
The Reverend Ken Hutcherson, a former Dallas Cowboys American football player and outspoken opponent of gay rights, is the self-proclaimed head of the Antioch Bible Church, based in Redmond, the home of Microsoft’s headquarters.
Hutcherson says that he will create a global and powerful group to promote traditional family values, including marriage exclusively between a man and a woman, and to force Microsoft to “stop financing ungodly ventures.”
Microsoft leadership has publicly supported gay rights legislation, and the company officially opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is no stranger to the LGBT community.
In July, a company that invests his wealth purchased a major stake in PlanetOut, the publishers of the Advocate and dating website Gay.com.
Hutcherson, joined by some of the country’s most influential Christian leaders, has created a new organisation, AGN Financial Network, to finance his efforts.
The worldwide venture asks people to buy three shares of company stock and donate one to AGN.
Its website tells visitors, “You have the power to change the world.”
“We’re not trying to hurt Microsoft or their shareholders, nor are we calling for a boycott of their products,” volunteer spokesman Dennis Sullivan told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
“We are trying to get Christians to buy their shares.”
According to the Intelligencer it is difficult to tell what effect, if any, the initiative could have on the stock price.
It would be difficult to influence company direction — just to gain a 1 percent stake in Microsoft, about 31 million people would each have to spend $104 to buy three shares.
Microsoft has about 9.36 billion outstanding shares, and its largest holder is Chairman Bill Gates, with 858 million shares, or 9 percent of the total. Capital Research and Management Co. follows with nearly 557 million shares, or 6 percent.
At Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting in November, Hutcherson told the group that he was gathering evangelicals, Catholics, Jews and Muslims to challenge the company.
He told company leaders, “I could work with you, or I could be your worst nightmare, because I am a black man with a righteous cause, with a host of powerful white people behind me,” according to an e-mail update to his supporters. “I hope to hear from you and if not, you will hear from me.”
“There are 256 Fortune 500 companies alone pouring millions upon millions of dollars into pushing the homosexual agenda,” he told the Daily Telegraph in November 2007.
“I consider myself a warrior for Christ. Microsoft don’t scare me. I got God with me.”
Microsoft shareholders have voted in favour of the company’s non-discrimination policy, General Counsel Brad Smith told the Post-Intelligencer.
The company was one of the first to offer employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners, according to its employee resource group GLEAM, which stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Employees at Microsoft.
Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said: “Our company policies are well-known and supported by over 97 percent of our shareholders when it was voted upon in a shareholder resolution, and we just have no comment on this.”
When asked whether the new initiative is a ploy to make money for his church, Hutcherson said, “Absolutely.”
“We’re going to need the finances to go to the next companies,” he said. “Anything you do successfully needs money.”
Hutcherson is a well-known and controversial figure in Western Washington; his church has 3,000 members. He said his battle is reminiscent of the biblical story of David versus Goliath.
He wants AGN Financial’s vote to resonate with the Microsoft board, he said, and wake up shareholders.
“Oh, yes ma’am, we’re going after corporations,” he said. “Microsoft has the privilege of being first because we have a history,” Hutcherson said.
In March last year, Hutcherson travelled to Latvia to meet senior officials there, claiming to be an official White House envoy.
He told Latvians that homosexuality was spreading rapidly, and that the “gay lobby” had increasing political influence across the world.
“We need to do everything to ensure that even in the European Union it does not loose its principles,” Hutcherson said.
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