Ford Motor Co. has averted a boycott scheduled for Dec. 1 by the American Family Assn. (AFA), Ward’s has learned.

The proposed boycott, which was halted in June, a few weeks after its start, was in protest of what the AFA calls an “enthusiastic” support of the gay rights agenda.

In averting the AFA boycott, Ford may have made some concessions in its policy of advertising and support of gay publications and community activities, but neither side will comment on the details of the truce.

In a Nov. 29 meeting at AFA headquarters in Tupelo, MS, David Leitch, general counsel and vice president for Ford, and Ziad Ojakli, group vice president-Corporate Affairs, along with Dallas-area Ford dealer Jerry Reynolds, hammered out a deal.

“We are ending the boycott of Ford,” said Donald E. Wildmon, Chairman of AFA. “While we still have a few differences with Ford, we feel that our concerns are being addressed in good faith and will continue to be addressed in the future.”

A Ford spokesman says the two parties had a “broad discussion” and deferred to the AFA to announce the reconciliation details.

According to a list of demands on AFA’s website, the organization insisted Ford and all of its brands stop donating – whether with cash, vehicles or endorsements – to homosexual social activities.

This includes donations to "gay pride" parades and pride weekend celebrations; homosexual organizations such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; and ending all advertising on homosexual websites and other gay media outlets.

In an interview prior to Nov. 29 meeting, AFA’s Special Projects Director Randy Sharp indicated that while Ford had made some positive changes, there was a key point still to be resolved that was non-negotiable. He declined to specify the issue added, “We’ve made it very clear that if Ford does not move on this one issue, the AFA will reinstate the boycott with renewed vigor.”

AFA initially launched the boycott on May 31, decrying the auto maker’s advertising in gay and lesbian-specific publications, along with corporate donations to gay and lesbian organizations.

The conservative Christian organization agreed to suspend the boycott until Dec. 1 after meeting in June with several dealers, including Reynolds in Dallas.

"We believe the dealers were making a good faith effort to work out this dispute," Wildmon says on the organization’s website. "Therefore, we accepted the suspension request and will work with the dealers in attempting to resolve our differences."

The 6-month hold on the boycott was initiated by Reynolds in a letter to Wildmon in early June after hearing about the boycott, sources close to the negotiations say. That meeting led to two subsequent meetings in Tupelo, including Tuesday’s talks.

Ford has monitored the situation, hoping to avoid the boycott.

“We are fortunate that we have had some dealers, particularly in the Southwest, who have stepped in and helped us to reach a common meeting of the minds,” Jim Padilla, Ford’s president and COO tells Ward’s in an October interview.

“We would expect that our approach is rational. And to the extent that AFA has issues, which I do not expect, then we will work our way through with them.

“I think we have a far better understanding of their issues, and I think they have an appreciation that Ford wants to be open and receptive to all potential customers.”

In tackling Ford, the AFA was hoping the auto maker’s dealers would embrace its “family values” approach and exert pressure on Ford to agree to its demands.

The AFA claims 2.6 million members and uses boycotts as a means of leverage against companies it disagrees with. Its fiscal 2004 tax return shows $14 million in revenue, almost all of it through private donations.

The non-profit group owns and operates its own Christian radio network, American Family Radio, with 200 stations and affiliates in 37 states. AFA also publishes the AFA Journal, with circulation approaching 200,000.

cbanks@primediabusiness.com