TUPELO, Miss. (Christian Examiner) – A petition pledging a boycott of Target over its new bathroom policy reached an incredible 1 million names Thursday night, even as faith bloggers debated whether the protest itself is a good idea.
The boycott was launched April 20 and is being led by the American Family Association, which is hosting a petition that reads: "Target's store policy endangers women and children by allowing men to frequent women's facilities. Until Target makes the safety of women and children a priority, I will shop elsewhere."
Support for the petition hit 1 million names Thursday in its ninth day, a feat boosted by the petition going viral on social media.
Under the new store policy, customers can use the restroom that corresponds to their chosen gender.
But it is the lack of details that has opponents particularly upset. Specifically, can a man simply walk into the women's restroom if he so chooses, even with women and young girls present? Target was asked an almost identical question on its Facebook page but did not give a direct answer.
When a Washington state open-bathroom law went into effect this year, a man walked into a Seattle public pool locker room and refused to leave, even when asked by patrons and workers to do so. He responded, "The law has changed and I have the right to be here."
Young girls were in the locker room on one of the occasions. The man was not arrested.
Christian blogger Aaron Wilson wrote that he understands the frustration that is at the core of the boycott, but believes it is a bad idea.
"Boycotting typically focuses its efforts on reducing the ripple effects of the real problem. Think of it like this: You have a leak in your basement that's causing water to drip into a bucket you've placed underneath," wrote Wilson, who opposes the Target policy. "You call in a plumber but instead of focusing on the pipe where the source of the leak lies, he spends his time addressing the bucket. He tries multiple containers and experiments with different ways to reduce the aesthetic effects of each drop hitting the surface.
"While this approach may temporarily reduce the irritation of your problem, it's only a provisional fix. Because the source of your leak hasn't been addressed, your new bucket will eventually fill again. The plumber has only disguised the root problem.
Wilson added, "The best case scenario in this effort is that Target goes back to its long-standing bathroom policy. While this would be great news, you could only call it a tempered victory as no disciples of Jesus would be made and the real underlying problem of sin would still exist."
Author and speaker Michael Brown, though, wrote that the boycott is necessary because of the issue's significance. He further said that a targeted boycott can be effective.
"While it is far too early to assess what impact this boycott will have, it is already very effective in waking Christians up to what is happening in our society and sending a message to other companies that there are economic consequences to embracing radical LGBT activism," Brown wrote at Stream.org.
Further, Brown argued, the policy is dangerous.
"Should we grant predators potential access to our kids while we give Target some time to prove their goodwill by coming up with an adequate policy to keep those predators out?" Brown asked. "And how many horror stories do we need to hear before we decide that Target is not the place for us? Before this new policy was announced, if a father saw a grown man follow his daughter into the bathroom, he could easily stop him or ask Target management to intervene. Today at Target, that father could do nothing, and since there's no way to distinguish between the transgender male-to-female and the heterosexual predator, Target could be complicit in that child's harm."
Christians can boycott Target while also showing love toward the transgender community, Brown added.
"I urge compassion for those who struggle, and I call for professionals to work together to find a way to help those who identify as transgender find wholeness from the inside out," he wrote. "As followers of Jesus, we can stand for righteousness while we reach out to the hurting and the confused."