- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2006

HOUSTON

Garden Guy was just a mom-and-pop landscaping business that promoted itself as “making Houston beautiful since 1991” and promised to treat its customers with respect and honesty.

In recent weeks, though, the business has been vilified around the world as a bunch of bigots because its Christian conservative owners refused to do work for a homosexual couple.

Michael Lord and Gary Lackey, requesting bids for a landscaping job at their new house, received a polite e-mail from Sabrina Farber, a co-owner of Garden Guy: “I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals.”

Stunned, Mr. Lackey forwarded the e-mail to 200 friends, asking them not to patronize Garden Guy and urging them to pass on the word to friends and family.

“I’m still shocked by the ignorance that exists in today’s society,” Mr. Lackey said in his e-mail.

Word indeed was passed on — as fast as the Web could carry it.

Within days, the e-mail had been forwarded to thousands of people around the world, and quickly became the subject of heated and often ugly debates on the Internet. Because of the furor, a professional association of landscapers created a nondiscrimination policy.

A forum on the Garden Guy Web site, normally reserved for discussions about landscaping and shrubbery, was bombarded with angry comments and venomous attacks from as far away as Australia.

Some people attacked the Farbers’ beliefs and threatened the couple and their five children.

Mrs. Farber, whose company’s Web site has long included biblical quotes and a link to a Web site that opposes same-sex “marriage,” said she was shocked by the reaction.

“It was just our intent to uphold our rights as small-business owners to choose our clientele,” she said. “All the hate, the threats of sodomizing my children, the threats of me being murdered, came out because of a very businesslike straightforward e-mail I sent. The crowd of tolerance and diversity is not so tolerant.”

Mrs. Farber said she and her husband also have received hundreds of calls and messages offering encouragement and have been touched by that.

“We just cried. We have been through so much,” she said. “We become accidental crusaders for Christ.”


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