AmazonSmile, which launched in 2013, would seem to be one of the mega-corporation’s less overtly awful functions: it’s a simple service that adds a surcharge to Amazon purchases and donates it to a participating charity of a shopper’s choice. However, UK-based media organization openDemocracy has found among those eligible charities were over 40 anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-choice groups.
I’ll put a bow on it, I’ll scream it, I’ll whisper it, but I am here to tell you that Amazon is a terrible company.
openDemocracy identified powerful anti-LGBTQ+ groups that are, at the time of this writing, live on AmazonSmile’s search portal. They list the Indiana chapter of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group the American Family Association, whose radio host and figurehead Bryan Fischer has said that the “Nazi party...was rooted in the homosexual movement.” There’s also Focus on the Family, which spawned the SPLC-designated hate group the Family Research Council. Of founder James Dobson, the SPLC writes that “no one has spread the anti-gay gospel as widely, or with as much political impact.”
We don’t know how much money these hate-mongering groups have raised directly via AmazonSmile, but this disturbing news has come to light at a time when Amazon’s revenue has gone through the roof thanks to a captive customer base stuck at home during a pandemic.
Other groups raising funds through AmazonSmile include some that rank high on openDemocracy’s list of US-based Christian right organizations putting the most money behind suppressing abortion rights around the world. The Human Life International (HLI), for example, has attempted to steamroll abortion rights movements in Latin America —and also issued a call-to-arms to defeat the “militant homosexual agenda.” Another, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), is an anti-gay rights legal group led by Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow—a man who has supported Poland’s ban on abortions for cases of fetal defects. The CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Billy Graham’s son Franklin, has stated that acceptance of non-heteronormativity represents “the deepening depravity that now vexes our country.” His group, likewise, is among those available for AmazonSmile donations.
openDemocracy chose not to name 37 additional groups they were unable to reach for comment, but they sent Gizmodo a dossier of organizations. They include transphobic propagandists, conversion therapy groups, and far-right TV and radio broadcasters. Gizmodo was able to easily find a few additional groups, like the National Organization for Marriage and the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity, which are explicitly anti-gay and anti-vax, respectively.
When reached for comment, Amazon told Gizmodo that it follows the guidance of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, and, confusingly, the SPLC—which again, has written unfavorably about most of these groups. Amazon also said that organizations that “support, encourage, or promote intolerance” aren’t eligible for the AmazonSmile program. Gizmodo asked why Focus on the Family, which has called “the homosexual agenda” a “beast” that “wants our kids” remains able to receive funds through the program, but we have yet to hear back.