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Wednesday, April 28, 2004



I just did a big ranty post about this too! Must be in the air. Yes, it is hard to do the right thing, and as Pound points out a boycott would mostly hurt the individual franchises, whose owners may or may not agree with Heavin. My year's membership at Curves is up this month, and I am choosing not to renew. However, in the letter I'm sending to the owner of my local franchise I'm explaining precisely that I have absolutely no problems with her or her facility, which is really a decent place, but with Heavin's "matching donation" policy that matches funds raised at franchises with donations to anti-abortion "family clinics." That's what I can do to be ok with myself, and I think it's a reasonable solution.


Jenex was too modest, she really lays it out for you:

Jenex's quite well-written and temperate essay on the Curves' founder.

In the 700 Club article linked above, Heavin says, about running a business by "Christian" principles: "One of those principles is the law of integrity. What does that mean? You tell people the truth. And the law of unity, you can’t have unity without integrity, but if people can count on what you say, they can believe in you and you can work together."

Huh. What about leaving out pertinent information, such as where Curves' charitable donations really go? How is that "the truth?" I certainly never saw anything in my local franchise about Heavin's matching donations policy, although there were lots of flyers pushing his book and weight-loss seminars and specially formulated vitamins and protein drinks. It's interesting, too, that most of the information I found regarding this is positively slanted and from the conservative religious press. I found numerous articles at places like Time, CNN, and Fox which saluted Heavin's entrepreneurial successes without ever once mentioning his firm anti-choice stance or his support for people like Pat Robertson. He only seems to bring it up in venues he knows will be approving of his "values."


Snopes has a page on this.

In each instance, these men are acting as private citizens who choose to bestow parts of their fortunes on the causes they believe in, not as officers of their corporations. The money is theirs to do with as they please, just as anyone's paycheck belongs to the person who earns it and stops being the employer's money at the moment it is paid out. That a spendthrift employee might choose to gamble away his earnings doesn't mean the company he works for supports gambling; likewise, that a wealthy man financially supports particular causes doesn't mean the corporation that paid him the money favors those movements.

All this is by way of saying that while it's correct to identify Gary Heavin as a patron of pro-life endeavors, it would not be right to point to Curves as a supporter of those same causes.


I'm having my own moral dilemma about continuing at Curves, but I finally decided to increase what I donate to pro-choice organizations to match the Curves fee, because there's no other women-only non-thong-garden gym that's remotely convenient for me.


Jon Carroll's article:

-- Just so you know: Gary Heavin, the founder of the Waco, Texas-based chain of exercise studios called Curves, is a heavy contributor to several organizations allied with Operation Save America, the rather more muscular successor to Operation Rescue, the anti-choice group.

The organizations he funds are spreading the lie that abortions lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. Planned Parenthood says its operations in Texas are being threatened by Heavin-funded clinics based on the old therapeutic model "you must carry your child to term."

In an article in Christianity Today, Heavin expressed pride in his involvement with anti-choice groups, to which he donates 10 percent of Curves' profits. You may do with this information what you will.

Mercury News Article:

Posted on Fri, Apr. 16, 2004 Curves CEO fuses theology and fitness in franchises


By Vera H-C Chan

Special to the Mercury News

Curves, the workout chain, will be flattening out.

Not sales, at $750 million in annual revenues. Not members, at 2 million and growing. Not in world ambition, with roll-outs in 20 countries, including Spain, Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Dubai, Hong Kong and India.

The flattening out will be the number of franchises in America. By 2005 -- 10 years after its first franchise in Paris, Texas -- Curves for Women will max out at 8,000 outlets, outstripping Starbucks and gaining on McDonalds.

CEO Gary Heavin (pronounced ``haven'') has been a believer in its success since the beginning. ``When we founded 50, then 250 (in less than a year), the handwriting was on the wall,'' says the Texan, who co-founded the first Curves in 1992 with his wife, Diana. The numbers may not have surprised the fitness and nutrition mogul, but the passion that engendered them has.

``If I missed anything in predicting this whole thing,'' he says, ``it was this inability to perceive this culture, this community of women who would create a sanctuary for other women to work hard and work toward good health.''

Heavin, a born-again Christian who found his faith after filing bankruptcy and losing custody of his two children, oversees an exercise empire. Clubs have relied on word of mouth -- not simply ads -- to bring members in. Customers have become franchise owners, and meet at the annual Curves convention. Many of the franchise owners, the Web site ( notes, are religious.

``It's all faiths,'' Heavin says. ``We have Hasidic Jewish franchises in Brooklyn, which are closed on Saturday and open on Sunday. We have Muslim franchises. Many of our franchises are Christian, of course, because 90 percent of Americans are Christian.''

Some customers might not be comfortable with the fusion of theology and fitness. ``We get a lot of heat because we're so expressive of our faith, and we encourage our faith,'' Heavin says. Such expressions include Christian music that his wife produces, and articulated Judeo-Christian values in Heavin's newest book, ``Curves: Permanent Results Without Permanent Dieting'' ($23.95, Penguin/Putnam Publishing).

``Facilities are welcome to play or not play the music,'' he says. ``They're welcome to use my book or not.''

Heavin's philanthropy reflects his deep beliefs. For example, he gives to pregnancy centers supported by Operation Save America, the anti-abortion group whose purpose, according to its Web site, ``unashamedly takes up the cause of preborn children in the name of Jesus Christ.''

``It seems everything is tolerated except the Christian, and that's a tragedy because of the need to put values in our boardrooms and classrooms,'' he says. ``Curves is not going to be another Enron or WorldCom.''

His mission to help older women who rarely exercise stems from a personal tragedy. His mother suffered from depression and high-blood pressure. Not long after her divorce, she died at age 40, leaving behind 13-year-old Gary and four other offspring. When Heavin turned 40, he found himself looking for his parent among the women he taught in his center.

``I had my epiphany when I realized what had been driving me all my life,'' he says. ``The Curves model is really to give women who were neglected, certainly by the fitness industry, these women who were giving everything and not taking time for themselves, it was giving them an opportunity.''

Heavin himself is in a good place. He reconciled with his father, who died last year. He regained custody of his two children some time ago, and now has two more. This December, he will pilot himself around the world to visit every country where there is a Curves.

``I'm successful,'' the entrepreneur says, ``because of the wisdom I've gotten from my faith.''

Susan R

The price of medication is one of the things contributing to the health care crisis in this country.

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