"This is economic terrorism"

The national battle was ignited in July by Stuart Wilber, a 73-year-old gay man in Seattle. He was astonished, he said, when he learned that people who bought Microsoft products through a Christian-oriented Internet marketer known as Charity Giveback Group, or CGBG, could channel a donation to evangelical organizations that call homosexual behavior a threat to the moral and social fabric.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, Microsoft,’ ” he recalled, noting that the software giant — like many other corporations accessible through the commerce site, including Apple and Netflix — was known as friendly to gay causes.

In July, Mr. Wilber went to a Web site that helps groups and individuals circulate petitions, called Change.org, and started one, asking Microsoft to end its association with what he called “hate groups.” By that night, 520 people had signed, with their ire copied to Microsoft officials — and Microsoft had quietly dropped out of the donation plan. Much to Mr. Wilber’s surprise, this would be the start of an electronic conflict that has put hundreds of well-known companies in an unwelcome glare…

“This is economic terrorism,” said Mike Huckabee, the former pastor, governor and presidential contender, who is a paid CGBG consultant. “To try to destroy a business because you don’t like some of the customers is, to me, unbelievably un-American,” he said in an interview.