AirBnB, Google, WordPress, Apple, and even Uber are among the companies who have refused the business of white supremacists or other hate-speech groups—it seems that taking a moral stand through business is catching on. Though that isn’t the case for every company: On Oct. 2-3, Marriott is scheduled to host ACTCON, the gathering of ACT for America, at its Marriott Crystal Gateway hotel in Arlington, Virginia.
ACT for America is the US’ largest anti-Muslim organization, and claims some 750,000 members around the country. Its CEO, Brigitte Gabriel, publicly expresses her Islamophobia. She’s also a Donald Trump supporter with direct access to his administration.
“The portent behind the terrorist attacks is the purest form of what the Prophet Mohammed created,” Gabriel wrote in her 2008 book,They Must Be Stopped. ”It’s not radical Islam. It’s what Islam is at its core.” Gabriel has also insisted that a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
After learning about the convention’s location, civil-rights organization Muslim Advocates on Sept. 11 emailed a letter (pdf) to Marriott’s president and other members of the company, demanding that the hotel distance itself from ACT by refusing to host the conference. Last month, PayPal dropped the anti-Muslim group from the list of organizations it serves.
There is precedent: In 2011, Marriott refused to host a conference for American Renaissance, an organization that promotes white supremacy. In its letter, Muslim Advocates appealed to the hotel chain’s list of diversity partners, and to its public stands against the Muslim ban and in support of LGBT rights.
Though Marriott acknowledged receiving the letter, Scott Simpson of Muslim Advocates told Quartz that the company did not communicate any intention of canceling the conference, which is why the organization decided to make the letter public this week. In a statement, a Marriott spokesperson said it is “a hospitality company that provides public accommodations and function space,” adding that accepting a group’s business does not constitute endorsing them.
Simpson disagrees. He says hosting the ACT conference shows that the hotel chain isn’t abiding by its purported respect for diversity, let alone acknowledging that Muslim guests may feel threatened by the gathering.
Marriott International is the largest hotel chain in the world. The company is worth more than $33 billion, and was recently granted $62 million (or about $17,500 per employee) in state and local subsidies for its new headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. The grant was given to stop Marriott from relocating, which would have been a big loss for Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who had made industry retention a core of his campaign. Back in 1999, Marriott received $43 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies, plus a deal for road improvement, to keep its headquarters in Bethesda.