New York Times reported Whole Foods CEO link to spiritual leader, former rabbi with “troubled past”
LOS ANGELES, CA — National advocacy organizations for raising awareness of childhood sexual abuse issues are backing a protest at the inaugural opening of Whole Foods 365 store, May 25 in Los Angeles. Planning is underway for a coordinated protest at a Whole Foods store in New York City.
The protests are in response to Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey’s link to spiritual leader Marc Gafni, a former rabbi with a “troubled past,” as reported by The New York Times in December.
Advocacy groups SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), NAASCA (National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse), and Peaceful Hearts Foundation (founded by Matthew Sandusky) are supporting the protest.
On December 25, 2015, The New York Times reported Mackey’s affiliation with Gafni, and the controversy surrounding the former rabbi: “A co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, a proponent of conscious capitalism, calls Mr. Gafni ‘a bold visionary.’ He is a chairman of the executive board of Mr. Gafni’s center, and he hosts board meetings at his Texas ranch.” And of one of his accusers, “He [Gafni] added, ‘She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.'”
More than 100 rabbis authored a petition demanding that Whole Foods sever ties with Gafni. Sara Kabakov came forward publicly for the first time in an opinion piece in The Forward: “I Was 13 When Marc Gafni’s Abuse Began.” New York Rabbi David Ingber, lead author of the petition, emailed that planning is underway for a coordinated protest at Whole Foods’ Upper West Side location in New York City.
Mackey’s public statement, posted on his Whole Foods blog, says his affiliation with Gafni is “strictly a personal relationship.” His post includes a link to Gafni’s website and their seven-part video dialogue. Since The Times story broke, Mackey has been widely criticized by experts in business, academia, and survivors’ advocacy work
According to a post on Gafni’s Center for Integral Wisdom site, Mackey’s term as board co-chair ended in March. The Forward reported: “A spokesman for Gafni said that Mackey had also left the board, ‘as all previous board chair members do.’ He added that, ‘There was no break between Mackey and Gafni.'”
A spokesperson for Whole Foods emailed: “John no longer serves on Mr. Gafni’s board and has no connection to the Center for Integral Wisdom. That being said, there’s nothing else to say on this matter.”
But leaders of advocacy organizations have voiced stern disagreement with Whole Foods’ statement, “there’s nothing else to say.”
David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP, from their press release (SNAP gained prominence on Oscar® night when actor Mark Ruffalo, director Tom McCarthy and and screenwriter Josh Singer of the Spotlight movie joined SNAP’s protest against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church):
“We hope it’s true that CEO Mackey is distancing himself from Gafni. If so, however, we disagree with the public relations staffer who claims ‘there’s nothing else to say on this matter.’ We hope Mackey takes clear, public and effective steps to ameliorate suffering and to contribute to a climate that welcomes and encourages victims of sexual violence to speak up, rather than a climate that depresses and deters them. If you’ve hurt people, distancing yourself from a wrongdoer isn’t enough. You have a moral duty to do more. We hope to see tangible helpful action by Mackey very soon to lessen the harm he has caused by his irresponsible affiliation with and support for an admitted sex offender.”
Bill Murray, Founder and CEO of NAASCA:
“As a community, we need to bring light into the shadows of the taboo issues of child sexual abuse — we must expose institutional enabling to stop the silence and change the culture. John Mackey and the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors have an opportunity here to impress the masses they’d like to reach with the Whole Foods 365 launch. Instead of stepping out of this discussion they should publicly step up to the plate by taking a responsible corporate stand against child sexual abuse as soon as possible.”
Matthew Sandusky, Founder and Executive Director, Peaceful Hearts Foundation:
“Whole Foods’ public statement, ‘there’s nothing else to say on this matter’ could not be more incorrect. JohnMackey and the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors have an opportunity to reach millions with an important message. Instead of maintaining the societal norm of silence around these issues, I would like to see them take a stand against child sexual abuse publicly — to take a leadership role in getting the message across that we can no longer remain silent.”
SNAP, NAASCA, and Peaceful Hearts Foundation are independent 501(c)(3) organizations.
Time: Wednesday, May 25, 10am – 3pm
Place: Whole Foods 365: 2520 Glendale Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90039 Map It