2023 was the year the evangelical obsession with Pride month turned violent

This article originally appeared at Baptist News Global on July 13, 2023.

I toted my brood of children through Target, as Kevin DeYoung suggested, when suddenly I noticed the display of Pride T-shirts.

At first, I thought it was nice that my LGBTQ neighbors would receive kind messages like “Free Mom Hugs” and “You Belong.” It seemed especially needed given that I live in a very evangelical community in the South and messages like this are hard to come by for LGBTQ people.

My second reaction was to laugh, imagining what all the conservative evangelicals were feeling as they walked by the shirts. I thought: Somebody should put some microphones in here or set up some cameras to catch their reaction.

But a week later, the clothes were gone, as if Pride Month had disappeared. Apparently, there was more going on than evangelicals merely muttering under their breath on their way to the toy section.

Of course, most people understand that corporations are driven by profit and should not be seen as saviors of the LGBTQ community. Yet, because the LGBTQ community can barely see representation in the background character of a Disney movie without creating a national panic, it might be nice to see a welcoming message on occasion.

Now that we’ve moved on with our summer, perhaps the story for Pride Month 2023 was how so many corporations caved and put their LGBTQ-affirming merchandise back in the closet due to threats from conservatives.

Police officers stand outside a Target store as a group of people protest across the street, Thursday, June 1, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

Targeting employees

Target has been offering Pride-themed products for more than a decade and has long drawn the ire of evangelicals. Pastor Greg Locke rose to stardom after posting a Facebook video complaining about Target’s LGBTQ-friendly restroom policies.

But this year, after placing their Pride merchandise on display, Target decided to remove the items due to customers being violent or threatening violence against their employees.

Target stores in Oklahoma, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont and Louisiana received emails with bomb threats. Seven locations in or near Oklahoma City were told bombs had been hidden inside products.

One email read, “The bombs will detonate in several hours, guess which ones have the bombs. Time is ticking.” The email included the date “4/19/1995,” which was the date of the Oklahoma City bombing. As a result, each of these stores had to be evacuated.

Target explained in a statement: “Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.”

Continue reading at Baptist News Global.

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