By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
Equity Foundation has accepted a gift of one thousand dollars from Moreland Farmer’s Pantry, the soon-to-open Sellwood natural food store currently under fire for anti-marriage equality statements made by one of its owners.
John Childs, who owns Moreland Farmer’s Pantry with his wife Chauncy, made his intention to give a donation to a local LGBTQ organization clear during an interview with PQ Monthly earlier this week. “We want people to understand that we’re putting our money where our mouth is, and as a goodwill gesture to the community at large. “
However, Childs was very emphatic that the organizations he was considering giving to had to not be one that was active in the fight for marriage equality in Oregon. “It wouldn’t include a cause that supported gay marriage, because I’d be a hypocrite if I did that. If we could find a cause that supported troubled gay and lesbian teens — not to try to convince them not to be gay, of course, but to help them through their crises. Everyone has crises, gay or otherwise. That’s just an idea, but we don’t know if such an organization exists… perhaps we can earmark our gift to be specifically for such a program.”
However, a statement released this evening from Equity Foundation indicates that these funds may be used to support the fight for marriage equality. “Equity Foundation has accepted a contribution from John Childs,” the statement explains. “The money will be used as all our contributions are: to fund LGBTQ youth, transgender justice, HIV/AIDS housing, art as a tool for change, and marriage equality [emphasis added].” [UPDATE 9:30 AM APRIL 8: In a statement made to PQ Monthly after this post was published, Equity Foundation Executive Director Karol Collymore clarified that the Foundation was not given any caveats with the Childs’ donation. “John did not say [to Equity] how to use the money. Ever,” Collymore stated. “He did not say ‘do not use it for marriage.'”]
The acceptance of this gift is the latest development in a controversy embroiling the soon-to-open natural foods store. The controversy was sparked when an anonymous Sellwood resident posted a video detailing a series of Facebook posts made by Moreland Farmers Pantry co-owner Chauncy Childs (under her pseudonym Lynn Brice) in which she expressed opposition to marriage equality and reposted articles arguing that businesses should have the right to refuse service to gay people. The video’s author, later identified as Sean O’Riordan, particularly highlighted a meme reposted by Childs which equated denial of service to a gay person to a denial of service to a KKK organization, as well as a Thought Catalog article exploring recent denial of service legislation from a libertarian perspective. The video, which was taken down by O’Riordan late last week, has been reposted by PQ Monthly for the sake of posterity and to provide the public with the source materials behind this controversy:
“At this point, there’s been a misunderstanding,” John Childs stated to PQ Monthly. “I understand and I get how those posts were misinterpreted. We’re very embarrassed — we were blindsided by it.”
“However,” he continued, “We’re not changing our views. We’ve always been very inclusive, and abhor discrimination, but we abhor control and limitation upon freedom of expression above anything else.” Childs, like many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which he and his wife Chauncy belong to, believes strongly that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.
The Childs’ expression of this belief did not sit well with many Portlanders. Once O’Riordan’s video hit social media, it quickly spread through social justice and LGBTQ-minded circles before leaping onto mainstream news channels. Prominent community members ranging from media figures to restauranteurs have chosen to make their thoughts on the issue known, often in public social media feuds amplified by local media coverage. The ensuing debate, both on the macro scale of broadcast media and the micro scale of social media, has proven for many to be a fascinating look at the ways that the personal and private intersect in a digital age, a consideration of the transaction that occurs when one goes from being a private citizen to a business owner, and a community’s appropriate response to ideological diversity when those ideologies have been harmful in other contexts.
John Childs is trying to look at this firestorm as part of a bigger picture — one that he hopes will include both liberty and success alike for his family and business, which may open as soon as next week. “I think, if any of us looked into any of these companies that we do business with, we’d find that there are owners and investors who hold differing views than we do. That’s the country that we live in — people hold differing views, and we have the freedom to discuss them. Of course, people have the right to vote with their wallet and not frequent a business they don’t agree with. We just hope that there’s enough people out there looking for non-GMO, hormone-free, pesticide-free food that we’ll be able to have a viable business here. Really, that’s all we’re hoping for.”
PQ Monthly is continuing their investigation of this controversy. Be sure to check out our upcoming April issue, to be released April 17, for a more in-depth look at the community response to the controversy, our investigation into the past business endeavors of the Childs family, and more from our conversations with the Childs and others close with their business.