Exclusive: Tesco set to drop future Pride funding days into Christian boycott

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Supermarket giant Tesco does not plan to sponsor Pride London again after next year, PinkNews.co.uk can confirm, only days after the Christian Institute called for shoppers to boycott the retailer.

The company, which employs nearly half a million staff, told PinkNews.co.uk its preference is to “support projects with practical benefits rather than events”, and that this applies universally across its charitable giving.

The Christian Institute called for a boycott of the store last week after it announced plans to use 0.05% of its charitable giving budget to fund a family area at the gay pride event.

At the time the funding was announced, Andrew Higginson, CEO of retailing services, said: “Tesco is the UK’s largest private employer, and a very diverse international organisation where everybody is welcome.

“Our Out at Tesco team will be working closely with Pride London to ensure next year’s event is even more fun.”

Out at Tesco is an LGBT support network with 500 members whose stated aim is to make sure employees “are feeling confident to be themselves at work”.

But the Christian Institute said today that members of the public who complained about the £30,000 of funding received an email from Tesco insisting its support for Pride London “implies no moral, philosophical or political stance”.

A copy of Tesco’s response seen by PinkNews.co.uk says: “We will continue to support our colleagues in the Out at Tesco network as we do in our other diversity forums.

“Most of our charitable and community support is however focused on delivering practical benefits, rather than on funding awareness-raising events.

“We will therefore discuss with Out at Tesco how we can support them in future years in ways that will not include sponsoring events.

“We hope this will enable us to be true to our belief that everyone is welcome at Tesco without polarising opinion.”

This afternoon, a Tesco spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk: “Tesco promotes a tolerant environment and supports a wide range of good causes and charities.

“We do not take funding decisions for 2013 so far in advance though our preference is always to support projects with practical benefits rather than events. We will be discussing how best to do this with Out At Tesco.”

PinkNews.co.uk has so far been unable to reach Pride London for comment.

The boycott was prompted by a comment made on the private Flickr account of Tesco’s Head of Research and Development.

Nick Lansley had said he would campaign “against evil Christians (that’s not all Christians, just bad ones)” who oppose equal marriage rights.

PinkNews.co.uk reported this week that footage of Mr Lansley’s 2006 civil partnership received homophobic abuse after it was featured as a “recommended video” on Youtube’s homepage.

One user had written in the public comments: “Matrimony is a sacrament established by God between MAN and WOMAN not for faggots and lesbians”.

Another warned: “Don’t provoke God to anger, fags”.

Mr Lansley’s comment was deleted when a complaint was received, and Tesco confirmed in a statement given to PinkNews.co.uk that they were his private views and did not reflect those of the company.

Telling people how to complain to the retailer, the Christian Institute also drew attention to the case of Adrian Smith, who was demoted for commenting on his personal Facebook account that gay marriage was an “equality too far”.

The group criticised the way Mr Smith was treated, but appeared to call for similar consequences for Mr Lansley after his own personal comment.

Formed in 1990 by a group of church leaders and Christian professionals, the Christian Institute has funded many cases where the religion and gay rights have clashed.

The Institute describes itself as a “non-denominational Christian charity committed to upholding the truths of the Bible.”

Update: Tesco has responded to readers’ concerns saying it is “fully committed” to its gay staff.