Public Principles and Wine in Indiana

wine bibleI’ve always thought that if one’s biblical perspective informed them that homosexuality was immoral, the best course of action would be to not engage in homosexual acts. Likewise, if one feels reliably sure that the Bible instructs that God is opposed to sex out-of-wedlock, then the best course of action is to refrain from sex until married. But I’m old-fashioned.

It appears that some are so sure that their responsibility to their religious beliefs requires them not merely to abstain from acts that they feel run counter to their faith, but that they are also called to refrain from doing business with those that don’t hold their beliefs and furthermore believe that it is important that the state protects their choice to discriminate against others that don’t share their religious convictions.

Fair enough. The state of Indiana and many of its citizens appear to have taken this latter view. However, they are discovering that there are consequences to exporting their personal religious beliefs onto their neighbor as well as into their legal code. In response to Indiana and Arkansas’ recent passage of an extended form of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act a number of companies and associations and individuals have chosen to re-evaluate their business relationship with these states. In some cases these institutions are choosing not to do business in the state any more. In some cases they are choosing to withdraw plans to expand their business. Just as those who are appealing to their principles in supporting paths to protected discrimination, others are following their principles in response and choosing not to do business with these states.

Does it make sense for a winery in, say, California, to make a public stand against these states’ actions by announcing they will no longer sell ship wine to Indiana consumers and wholesalers and, in the case of Arkansas, sell and ship no more wine to Arkansas wholesalers for sale to its retailers and restaurants?

I think there are three important deterrents to a winery choosing to take a stand in this manner.

1. You Simply Can’t Afford to Take a Stand.
The cost of giving up these sales would result in too great an impact on their bottom line, making taking this kind of principled stand impossible or at least difficult

2. You’ll Lose Business When You Piss Off Customers That Disagree with You and Your Public Stand
No doubt taking a public stand against bigotry will certainly result in those who find bigotry less offensive than your big mouth to refuse to continue to do business with you or refuse to continue to buy your wine. And the problem is that you never know who is going to react. It just might be an important partner who you need.

3. They Don’t Believe Taking A Stand Will Make Have Any Impact
A very large company might make and impact and make a public splash by taking a stand against Indiana or Arkansas and increase attention to the nature of these laws they find abhorrent. But what of a little winery that would have little or no impact and little or no exposure if they announced a boycott of sorts aimed at Indiana and Arkansas. What difference would I make?

I understand reason number one. It makes sense to me. If my cutting off a state or two you will actually jeopardize your business and those who work for you and with you, then it’s perfectly understandable to choose not to take a stand. But, it’s a calculation in the end.

Reason number two is understandable also. The backlash could be big relative to your size and could damage your business and impact your family and the employees you cherish.

Reason number three eludes me. I don’t think it makes sense and I don’t think anyone considering the impact of taking a public stand against bigotry ought to take this reason into consideration. Everything makes an impact. It may be a small and slight impact. But impact it will have. And you never know upon whom your actions will have an impact. They may inspire a much larger, much more visible concern to take a similar stand (if that little guy can do it, so can I).

I have no doubt that a number of winery owners across the country have asked themselves if they too ought to take a public stand as they have watched this issue of the merits of the public accommodation of bigotry play out over the past few days. And I’m willing to bet that as wineries have considered what they can do, many have never gotten past point number three in their calculation of whether action is warranted. I urge these wineries to get past reason number three and move on to reasons number 2 and 1.

On the other hand, you could always ask, “What Would Karen MacNeil Do”?
(with apologies to Karen…I couldn’t resist.)


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