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Starbucks CEO cancels appearance at anti-gay church

Starbucks’ chief executive cancelled a high-profile church appearance after an online protest over the congregation’s views on homosexuality.

A Starbucks spokeswoman said Howard Schultz would not appear this week at an annual conference organized by Willow Creek Community Church in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels said Schultz withdrew after an online petition circulated at asked him to denounce the mega-church’s views on homosexuality.

Hybels insisted his congregation is not anti-gay, saying it cut ties two years ago with Exodus International, an “ex-gay” religious movement that attempts to “cure” gays of homosexuality.

Earlier this summer, Starbucks issued a statement saying the company had “zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.” The statement came after the company received adverse publicity over the firing of an openly gay barista, who was harassed for discussing his personal life, and a female dwarf, who was fired after asking for a stool to reach something at work.

In the past, Willow Creek’s annual conference has included former President Bill Clinton, GE’s Jack Welch and rock singer Bono.

In a message presented at the conference today, Hybels said, “We challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in Scriptures, which encourage sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage.”

“In no uncertain terms is Willow anti-gay,” Hybels added. “The whole thing is sad to me. Willow is not only not anti-gay. Willow is not anti-anybody. … To suggest we check sexual orientation at the door is simply not true.

Hybels encouraged conference participants to write Starbucks and “show some good Christian support” by buying a cup of Starbucks coffee and Schultz’s latest book “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul.”

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