Chick-fil-A ruffles some feathers with beliefs
BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, August 05, 2012
8/05/12 at 3:06 AM
On Wednesday, a large number of Americans marched to their nearby Chick-fil-A for breakfast, lunch or dinner to show support for that company's right to freedom of speech. Good for them.
The call went out to make Aug. 1 a day to show support and eat at Chick-fil-A. Judging by the turnouts in Tulsa and elsewhere around the country a lot of people support the company. It's uncertain how many were really defending the First Amendment and how many simply agreed with what the company's boss had to say. Or how many just like the sandwiches. Nevertheless, it was Americans exercising their right to defend Chick-fil-A's rights.
This all began last month when Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, told the Baptist Press that his company supported the "biblical definition of the family unit."
Then, on a radio program, he said: "I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."
He also said that America is "inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.' "
No doubt, controversial remarks. Predictably, the backlash was swift.
The reaction from the gay community was not surprising. Other reaction, however, was somewhat surprising.
City officials in Boston, Chicago and New York City threatened to bar Chick-fil-A from doing business in their cities. The Jim Henson Co. (the Muppets) withdrew its collaboration with the company.
In a letter to Cathy, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino wrote: "There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it. When Massachusetts became the first state in the country to recognize equal marriage rights, I personally stood on City Hall Plaza to greet same-sex couples coming here to be married. It would be an insult to them and to our city's long history of expanding freedom to have a Chick-fil-A across the street from that spot."
Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno said he plans to prevent Chick-fil-A from building its second Chicago restaurant in his ward. "I will now be denying Chick-fil-A's permit to open a restaurant in the First Ward," Moreno said. Moreno is one of 50 aldermen on Chicago's City Council.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel piled on by saying: "Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty."
In New York City, speaker of the New York City Council Christine Quinn (who also is considering a run for mayor) advised the president of New York University to "sever" its relationship with a Chick-fil-A on campus. "Let me be clear," Quinn said, "I do not want establishments in my city that hold such discriminatory views."
Chick-fil-A issued its own statement saying the company would "leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena." The company added that it has always aimed to "treat every person with honor, dignity and respect - regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."
There is no evidence to dispute Chick-fil-A's statement.
There is little doubt that what Cathy said was offensive to a large portion of the country. Not just the LGBT community, but to most Americans who believe that discrimination of any sort is offensive and un-American, not to mention un-Christian. On the other hand, there a lot of Americans who agree with Cathy. And these aren't simply a lot of folks who are homophobes. Many, maybe most, have strong convictions and believe literally what the Bible says, or at least what they interpret it to say.
There is, however, another angle to this affair and that is: The First Amendment applies to controversial and even painful viewpoints.
If cities insisted on measuring sticks for companies that want to locate or expand then those cities would be limiting themselves and quite likely denying First Amendment rights. as well as hurting business.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has supported marriage equality, might have had the most level-headed comment. "You can't have a test for what the owners' personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city," he said.
If you disagree with the Chick-fil-A stand on same-sex marriage or same-sex relationships, that's fine. Don't eat at Chick-fil-A. There certainly are plenty of other folks who will continue to buy its products.
You can't stand for tolerance and then go out and show intolerance by punishing a Christian-based company for its beliefs. Its beliefs are strong. It closes its stores on Sunday.
If you don't like the food or the people selling it, pass. But, let's not flirt with damaging the First Amendment and stifle growth by invoking some sort of litmus test for businesses.
Those who oppose same-sex couples are fond of saying "hate the sin, love the sinner." For me. It's "hate the message, but defend the right to say it."
I'll have a burger with everything on it.
Original Print Headline: Food fight
Mike Jones, 918-581-8332
Customers line up at the drive through at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday in Tulsa. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World