This isn’t being treated as a major story, but I think it’s frightening:
Republican attorneys general from seven states signed a letter Wednesday to Target, warning that clothes and merchandise sold as part of the retail giant’s Pride month campaigns could violate their state’s child protection laws.
GOP attorneys general from Indiana, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and South Carolina signed the letter, writing they were “concerned by recent events involving the company’s ‘Pride’ campaign.” The letter asserts the states are obliged to “enforce state laws protecting children” from “content that sexualizes them,” including obscenity laws….
The AGs said they believed the campaign was a “comprehensive effort to promote gender and sexual identity among children,” criticizing items such as “LGBT-themed onesies, bibs, and overalls, T-shirts labeled ‘Girls Gays Theys’; ‘Pride Adult Drag Queen Katya’ (which depicts a male dressed in female drag’); and girls’ swimsuits with ‘tuck-friendly construction.’
Regarding that last item: Target never sold “tuck-friendly” swimsuits for children — they suits were only for adults. That bit of disinformation was debunked back in May, but zombie right-wing lies never die.
The onesies and other items for very young children carry messages like this:
If you’re saying that it’s a potential violation of the law to sell children’s products proclaiming that LGBTQ people exist, are equal citizens, and should be celebrated, you’re a very short step from declaring that it’s illegal to be a gay parent. If the presence of pro-LGBTQ clothing results in unlawful sexualization of children, so does the ongoing presence of an LGBTQ parent — right?
The Katya shirt is a big nothing, and as the AGs themselves note, it’s an adult shirt:
The AGs’ letter is here. Let’s take a look at some of it:
As the chief legal officers of our States, we are charged with enforcing state laws protecting children and safeguarding parental rights. State child-protection laws penalize the “sale or distribution … of obscene matter.” A matter is considered “obscene” if “the dominant theme of the matter … appeals to the prurient interest in sex,” including “material harmful to minors.”
Yes, a onesie with the word “EQUALITY” on the front spelled with a rainbow “U” will make babies think about sex all the time.
Target also sold products with anti-Christian designs, such as pentagrams, horned skulls, and other Satanic products. One such design included the phrase “Satan Respects Pronouns” with a horned ram representing Baphomet—a half-human, half-animal, hermaphrodite worshiped by the occult.
In a country where the Bill of Rights is still reportedly in effect, is it the job of the top law enforcement officers in these states to police the sale of jokey “satanic” products? Also, is “satanism” really the opposite of Christianity? And if so, isn’t policing the sale of “anti-Christian” merchandise an “establishment of religion,” in violation of the First Amendment?
And here we have the attorneys general policing a private company’s business decisions as business decisions:
Target’s directors and officers have a fiduciary duty to our States as shareholders in the company. The evidence suggests that Target’s directors and officers may be negligent in undertaking the “Pride” campaign, which negatively affected Target’s stock price. Moreover, it may have improperly directed company resources for collateral political or social goals unrelated to the company’s and its shareholders’ best interests.
A corporation’s directors and officers owe duties of care and loyalty to the corporation and its shareholders. The duty of care requires that directors and officers act with reasonable prudence. That duty is violated when those directors and officers act with gross negligence. The duty of loyalty “requires an undivided and unselfish loyalty to the corporation” and “demands that there shall be no conflict between duty and self-interest.”
These AGs are implying that legal action might be appropriate because Target made a business decision they don’t like. That’s a heavy-handed use of the power of government to try to enforce ideological conformity. And, of course, this was a questionable business decision only because the AGs’ ideological allies in the right-wing rage community were encouraged to vent their wrath at Target. So first these folks boycott your company, then they threaten legal action because you as a corporation should have known they were going to do that.
The AGs go on at great length about this:
Corporations are expected to pursue excellence in their chartered purposes, including, where applicable, by retailing goods and earning robust profits along the way. Though a company’s board of directors and its management have the discretion to make business decisions for how to best achieve those purposes, it is emphatically beyond the power of a corporate fiduciary to effectuate “a change in the end itself, to the reduction of profits … in order to devote them to other purposes”—social, political, or otherwise.
This seems to be an argument that business decisions made for any reason other than profit — for example, decisions made in the interest of social responsibility — are actually illegal.
… Target’s management has no duty to fill stores with objectionable goods, let alone endorse or feature them in attention-grabbing displays at the behest of radical activists. However, Target management does have fiduciary duties to its shareholders to prudently manage the company and act loyally in the company’s best interests. Target’s board and its management may not lawfully dilute their fiduciary duties to satisfy the Board’s (or left-wing activists’) desires to foist contentious social or political agendas upon families and children at the expense of the company’s hard-won good will and against its best interests.
And this is an argument that companies “may not lawfully” be liberal. I don’t know how else to read it.
I suppose I should assume that this is largely empty rhetoric, and that no one’s actually planning to back it up with legal action. But it’s clear that these AGs believe they’d be entitled to sic the law on Target.
This is where we’re heading in America. This is why I believe that the possibility of a second Trump presidency is only a small part of the danger to our way of life. These people don’t think anyone who disagrees with them has full constitutional rights. And they won’t stop until they win, unless we stop them at the ballot box, decisively and repeatedly.
Republished with permission from No More Mister Nice Blog.