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Baptists Call for Boycott of Hotel Chain

April 05, 2002|From Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — The Southern Baptist Convention said Thursday it will urge members to boycott Howard Johnson hotels during its annual meeting because of one hotel's plans to host what the convention called a "private sex bash."

The Baptist group was referring to the three-day "Beat Me in St. Louis" seminar being held at a Howard Johnson hotel April 26-28 by St. Louis Leather & Lace.

Leather & Lace's Web site said it endorses "free expression of alternative lifestyles and forms of loving," including bondage, domination and sadomasochism, regardless of sexual orientation.

The Baptist Convention--the nation's largest Protestant group, with 101,000 clergy--canceled its June reservations in a letter to hotel officials Thursday.

It was unclear how many rooms were pre-booked, but convention-goers were expected to reserve 4,000 hotel rooms citywide during its two-day meeting.

Jack Wilkerson, who wrote the letter on behalf of the Baptists, called the Leather & Lace meeting a "direct attack on the fabric of traditional family values and the biblical heritage of our denomination and its churches."

"The SBC does not feel comfortable recommending other Howard Johnson locations for future meetings," according to a church statement released Thursday.

Messages left for the manager of the hotel that will host the Leather & Lace seminar were not immediately returned.

Howard Johnson hotels are franchised and individually owned.

A spokeswoman for the hotels' New Jersey-based parent corporation, Cendant, said it does not interfere with guest-related decisions as long as the site remains law-abiding.

Leather & Lace representatives did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment.

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