(CNSNews.com) -The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is calling for a boycott of Guinness and Sam Adams beer to protest their brewers’ decision to pull their sponsorships of Monday's St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York and Boston respectively, League president Bill Donohue told CNSNews.com.
Earlier this week, the beer companies announced that they were not sponsoring the parades, which draw up to a million spectators, because organizers would not allow participants with signs identifying them as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) to march.
But Donohue says he is already seeing a backlash.
“I’ve never seen such a quick, visceral reaction,” he told CNSNews.com. “I think it’s due to a couple of reasons. Number one, it’s an easy issue to understand. Anybody can march in the parade. What you can’t do is march under your own banner; in other words, if you have a political cause.
“Pro-life Catholics, as I emphasize, are not allowed to march in the parade under their own banner. If you happen to be pro-life, you can march. You can be pro-choice and you can march. You can be gay or straight and you can march. What you can’t do is have your own banner.
“You can belong to County Kerry or County Cork or Cardinal Spellman High School or Iona College or something of that nature, the Police Department. That’s fine, obviously, because you’re simply identifying with your unit.
“So it’s all contrived. It has nothing to do with anything but their lack of respect for diversity, which means pluralism, so that everybody has the right to have their own parade and do what they want.”
The Boston Beer Company, which makes the Samuel Adams brand, dropped its sponsorship of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, one of the largest in the nation, over the LGBT issue. The Dublin-based Guinness also said in a statement that it would no longer sponsor the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade, which dates back to 1762.
“Sam Adams doesn’t support South Boston. They don’t want to support veterans like my father and uncle, so they can go sell their beer elsewhere,” Thomas Flaherty, Sr., owner of the Cornerstone Pub & Restaurant in South Boston, told The Boston Herald.
“The Bostonians pretty much have the Sam Adams boycott under control. That’s their home beer, and they’re already pulling out the taps in some of the bars in Boston. That’s going to happen in New York with Guinness, too,” Donohue said.
What’s angering a lot of New Yorkers, he added, is the fact that Guinness pulled its sponsorship Sunday night, “after the bar owners had already bought the kegs of Guinness for the parade. This is not sitting well at all,” Donohue said, noting that “hundreds of emails” in support of the boycott have been pouring into the League’s New York headquarters.
Donohue pointed out that the gay Heritage of Pride parade in New York also “has its own rules and regulations. You have to have an LGTB sign or they won’t let you in. It’s their parade. They have a right to do that. Why can’t people respect and have tolerance for our parade?”
On Friday, Donohue said he “asked to join the Heritage of Pride parade under a banner that would read, ‘Straight is Great.’ The purpose of my request was to see just how far they would go without forcing me to abide by their rules. It didn't take long before they did.”
After he ”objected to their rule requiring me to attend gay training sessions,” Donohue said Heritage of Pride officials responded by saying that attendance at the sessions was "mandatory."
“It is hypocritical for gay activists to complain about having to abide by the mandatory rules of the St. Patrick's Day parade, and then inform me that I cannot march in their parade unless I respect their mandatory rules, rules that I reject,” he said in a statement.
The boycott’s message to Guinness and other corporate sponsors who think it’s “chic to say you’re pro-gay” is that Catholics will not take such insults lying down, Donohue told CNSNews.com.
“This parade is Irish, but it’s Irish-Catholic, with the emphasis on Irish Catholic. It’s the only parade that begins with a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s the only parade that honors the patron saint of the Archdiocese of New York, who happens to be St. Patrick. And that’s why the gays and their straight supporters are angry.
“This is an attack on the traditional moral values of the Catholic Church. And that’s why we’re getting support from people who aren’t even Irish or Catholic,” Donohue added. “I think it’s one of those peak moments in the culture wars where people just throw up their hands and say, ‘Enough is enough.’
“Young people drink the craft beers, they don’t drink Guinness," he pointed out. "The old crowd drinks Guinness, and they’re mostly Irish and heavily Catholic, and they’re fed up. The demographics are working our way, not their way. This is a full-court press. This is the only way you can win in the culture wars."
Donohue pointed out that parade organizers have a unanimous Supreme Court ruling on their side.
“We won in the Supreme Court nine to nothing in 1995, Justice [David] Souter writing the opinion for the court. At play was the First Amendment freedom of assembly right. So the more people find out that gays are not barred, instead of being barred for having their own banner the way vegetarian Catholics are or NRA Catholics are, then people say, ‘What’s the big deal?’ And that’s what we’re wondering.”
He added that the boycott will continue until the Catholic League gets a statement from Guinness admitting it made a mistake. However, Heineken, which also pulled its parade sponsorship, is not a target of the boycott. “I found that if you have too many targets, you dilute the effectiveness of the boycott,” Donohue said.
“This is not just a flash-in-the-pan,” he continued. “This is our number one priority and will remain so.
”And if anybody has any doubts about what we can do, check out what happened to The Miller Brewing Company in 2007 when I waged war against them in a boycott,” Donohue added. “It took six weeks and I finally won. And I got a pledge from them never again to sponsor the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, where gays go naked in the street and with anti-Catholic symbols and signs all over the place.”
“Our intent is to always act in a non-discriminatory way. When we come across something that contradicts this, we take action,” Tara Rush, senior director of corporate communications at Heineken USA told CNSNews.com. “For that reason, we decided to withdraw our sponsorship of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade.”