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Ethics and Religion Talk: Would You Boycott a Business for their Support of Politicians or Causes?

Do you advocate boycotting restaurants and other businesses whose owners are supporters of causes you do not support? Does it matter if the business itself attaches its name to the cause and gives money, or if the owners only support the cause in their own name, but not in the name of the business?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

I would definitely boycott the business if it's supporting causes that are contrary to my moral, spiritual and social beliefs in the name of the business, but not if he supports them in his own name. He has the freedom to do whatever he wants in his name but if I am contributing to his business, then I have the freedom to not be a part of it.

God's Word is my standard and in His Word, God calls us to not follow the crowd supporting what they support or opposing what they oppose.

"For thus the Lord spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it." (Isaiah 8:11-12)

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

When deciding to boycott a business because the owners support a cause with which one might disagree, a person must consider the bigger picture. One always needs to be careful about boycotting a business. One must ask the question, does my action cause others harm?

While I support boycotts in principle, sometimes they do more harm than good. For example, a restaurant that employs low-income men and women and immigrants. Causing income damage to the restaurant might harm the people who work there, preventing them from housing and feeding their families.

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

There are certain businesses that I personally avoid and if asked by a member of my church about a particular business, I would give my opinion and why. As a rule, I do not tell my congregation what to do or where to shop. That being said, Unitarian Universalists would more likely support businesses that support reproductive choice and those that are friendly and supportive of the LGBTQA+ community. As a denomination, we do try to support businesses that align with our value.

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

I wouldn’t say I advocate it. Rather, I think that such matters are personal choices that should be respected. I imagine if I knew that a business was owned by a genuine Nazi or someone who espoused truly hateful sentiments publicly, I would avoid trading with them. But more often than not, I look at the bigger picture. Does this business provide good jobs in the community? Are they solid citizens in other respects? However, if it is brought to my attention that an organized boycott is being organized against a corporation for a noble purpose and is backed by strong evidence, I have and will join the effort.

Linda Knieriemen, a retired pastor of the Presbyterian Church (USA), responds:

My parishioners over the years would not respond well to my advocating against specific restaurants and businesses who support practices church leadership disagrees with. I have, and I believe it is a responsibility of a church leader to inform and educate about businesses, companies or non profits whose values are in sync with the particular church. A Presbyterian tenet has long been the ‘God alone is Lord of the conscience”. It is definitely a responsibility of a church to raise awareness, but to then leave the decision for action to the parishioner.

In several congregations where I have served, congregants have been encouraged to make donations to organizations the church mission budget already supports, such as nonprofits which provide housing, emergency food, aid to those who have been abused or treatment for those with mental illness.

My response:

If a business was actively doing harm in the community, I think there are grounds for organizing a formal boycott. Short of that, however, I would not organize or support a formal boycott. Boycotting a business for religious reasons presupposes that its values or causes are fundamentally at odds with my religion’s values. This is rarely the case.

From a personal point of view, the complexity of figuring out the path of the money I spend at every place I do business would overwhelm me, so I most of the time I don’t pay attention to the politics or causes of the business or its owner. If, however, the business makes a special effort to promote a specific politician or cause I don’t support, I will choose to spend my money elsewhere.


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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