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Dick & Betsy DeVos fund Broadway play written by a sweatshop profiteer about the founder of an ultra conservative church

August 22, 2012

Yesterday, MLive posted an article about Dick & Betsy DeVos deciding to provide financial support for the Broadway play Scandalous, written by Kathie Lee Gifford.

The article calls the move by Dick and Betsy their “entry” into Broadway, as if this was a new venture for them.

The play they are funding is about a woman who was an evangelical and the founder of Foursquare Church, which has grown significantly since 1930s, but has maintained its hyper-conservative roots.

The MLive story mentions that this is not the first time that Dick and Betsy DeVos have decided to fund the arts and culture, with increasing amounts of money going to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and their financing of son Rick’s annual event, ArtPrize.

However, the article doesn’t explore why Dick and Betsy have decided to fund arts and culture. Instead, the MLive story refers to other articles in the New York Times and the Huffington Post, neither of which explores their motivations.

Nearly two years ago, we posted an article by artist Richard Kooyman, entitled What is ArtPrize, where Kooyman explores why he thinks the DeVos family has shifted to art & culture. Kooyman believes that the DeVos’ interest in art and culture is connected to the rest of the family philosophy of promoting capitalism and conservative religious values.

There are also aspects of the DeVos/Gifford/Foursquare partnership that are completely ignored by the MLive article.

First, there is no mention of Kathie Lee Gifford’s history of profiting from sweatshops in Central America. In 1996, Charles Kernaghan, with the National Labor Committee (MLC), investigated where Gifford’s brand name clothing was being manufactured and discovered that a factory in Honduras was using teenage girls to sew her clothes for little pay and under horrendous working conditions.

Gifford went on TV, cried and then said she would make sure such practices never happened again. Three years later it was discovered that Gifford continued to profit off of sweatshop labor, when the NLC found her clothing line being made in sweatshops in El Salvador.

This is relevant information as Gifford’s play is about a woman who promoted a certain kind of religious values, yet she herself has a history of exploited women workers abroad. It is also relevant in that the DeVos family has been a proponent of trade policies that have both benefited their company and created exploitative practices, such as the one that Gifford and Amway have profited from.

Second, there is no exploration about what the Foursquare Church has become and its relationship to the politics of DeVos and Gifford. Foursquare Church continues to promote hyper-conservative religious values such as anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage and the dominance of Christian values in public life. Former Foursquare pastor Jack Hayford, now the head of Kings College and Seminary, embraces Dominion theology, a theology that believes that religious doctrines should govern civic life. Essentially, those who embrace Dominion theology in the US would like to replace the US system of laws with the 10 Commandments. Hayford and other Foursquare leaders have also been involved with the patriarchal Christian movement known as the Promise Keepers.

It’s no surprise then that Dick and Betsy DeVos would finance a Broadway play written by a Sweatshop profiteer that promotes the story of the founder of  an ultra-conservative Christian Church.

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