Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, landed in a heap of trouble when news broke on Friday that he spoke at a June 30 Focus on the Family event in Orange County.

Focus on the Family's longtime anti-gay agenda is ugly and widely known.

Soulforce, the gay rights organization that exposes anti-gay religious groups, notes in a special report that FOTF has pushed such ideas that homosexuality is a mental disorder caused by family problems and bad parenting, that gays want to destroy marriage and the family, that same-gender parents are unfit and seek to hurt children, that homosexuality can be prevented by parents and cured through 'reparative therapy,' and that gays are sick, ungodly people who want 'special rights,' not civil rights.

Mycoskie, who lives on a sailboat in Los Angeles, says he simply didn't know about these things.

“Had I known the full extent of Focus on the Family's beliefs,” Mycoskie writes in a recent blog post, “I would not have accepted the invitation to speak at their event.”

TOMS has a large gay clientele — take a walk in any gay neighborhood and you'll see someone wearing a pair of the slipper-like shoes — and is now ripe for a very public boycott.

Folks on Facebook and elsewhere are willing to take Mycoskie's word that he made a mistake and didn't properly vet Focus on the Family.

Guess a handsome, rich guy with a friendly smile thinks he can charm his way out of this brouhaha, but his excuse doesn't quite pass the smell test.

First of all, in this age of Google — when it's second nature to do a quick, Internet search of someone or some group — it's hard to believe no one in his company didn't check out Focus on the Family.

Secondly, Mycoskie is no stranger to the evangelical Christian world, in which FOTF is widely known as a powerhouse.

A Christianity Today article points out that the TOMS founder visited and held a TOMS-related event at Texas-based Abilene Christian University last year.

That college refused to allow a gay-straight alliance to form and was featured in a recent New York Times article titled “Even on Religious Campuses, Students Fight for Gay Identity.”

Mycoskie also accepted a 2010 invitation to speak with members of Willow Creek Community Church, a mega-church in Illinois led by senior pastor Bill Hybels. That church promotes the idea that gays can change and become straight. Willow Creek also suggests that if gays can't do that, they should be celibate.

Soulforce targeted Willow Creek and Bill Hybels during a 2008 national tour, which sought to educate leading evangelical ministers in the United States on gay issues.

If Mycoskie would have turned down Focus on the Family, why didn't he do the same for Willow Creek and Abilene Christian University? Did he not vet them either? Or did he not really care all that much about their policies toward gays?

Sometimes it's the cover up that comes back to haunt you the most.

Correction: Christianity Today, not Focus on the Family as stated in a previous version of this post, pointed out Mycoskie's links with other evangelical Christian groups.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at

LA Weekly