Chick-fil-A has proven that, as a company, it espouses strict Christian principles – and some of these “morality” lessons involve funding hate groups that are vehemently anti-gay (to the tune of at least two million bucks). That’s a lot of breasts, legs and thighs, people.
As if we didn’t already know the chain has had a beef with the LGBT community (remember those couples retreats that were straight only?), the president of the fast food chain even admitted this month that, yep, he and his cronies oppose gay marriage and other gay rights initiatives. The chain’s also been slapped with a lawsuit that charges it discriminates against working moms.
Add all of this up and I’d never drop a dime at Chick-fil-A. And not only will I never eat there, I’ll also persist in reminding others that when they patronize a place like this, they are endorsing a business that condemns LGBT rights (not to mention funneling money to hate groups).
Why would I do all of this? Because I have that right to do all of this.
But ever since the Chick-fil-A controversy blew up again recently (we’ve been talking about the group’s tragic business plan for more than a year now), political leaders have been making some pretty bold statements about how new franchises will be banned from operating in their cities. Mayors everywhere from Boston and New York to Chicago and D.C. have basically told Chick-fil-A to get lost.
Wait a second…
Does this mean that if a mayor doesn’t like what you espouse, you can be banned from expressing these opinions? And you can be prohibited from operating a business that adheres to any legal codes and ordinances?
Maybe it’s not so cool after all. I may have a big problem with Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay platform and religious zealotry (and people using the Bible to justify bigotry), but I also have a big problem banning free speech.
Don’t get me wrong. I would do a very public and very happy dance the day that Chick-fil-A and its small-minded management goes out of business (it can’t come soon enough, frankly), but I have a problem with people who are using their office to discriminate against a business that, while discriminatory itself, has every right to conduct business wherever it follows the laws and guidelines established by that community, city or state. That’s one of the greatest things about this country. People can build businesses. They can take a stab at success. But it’s the people who decide if they want that business in their backyards by either patronizing it (or not). But it’s definitely not elected officials who should be drawing the lines – even in cases where one party may abhor another’s “principles.”
Here’s an example. I think most rational people can agree that the KKK is one of the most revolting, horrible, truly despicable hate groups in this country (right up there with the Westboro Baptist Church). And as much as I would like to rip the sheets off of each of these racist cowards’ faces, by nature of our Constitution, I would also defend the right for these hateful morons to speak their “minds.”
Are they sickening? Definitely. But do they have a right to stand in front of City Hall and offend me to my core? Absolutely.
But the beauty here is I have the right to hate them, too, and to stand against them and counter every last thing they say on the very same steps of City Hall without the mayor or government telling me I can’t.
Using this same logic, mayors – however good intentioned – need to consider how not to trample essential rights. Instead of a mayor deciding to ban a business that by all accounts follows legal code (the only truly lawful reason such a business could be denied a permit), it should be up to the people (you and me) in those cities to decide if we’d like to support Chick-fil-A or not.
The good news is more and more people are coming out to boycott the chain every day – and this is a great thing for anyone who cares about gay rights and its advocates and allies. It’s also a great thing for freedom of speech. Sure, Chick-fil-A’s management can talk all they want about the Bible and gay marriage (again – their right), but others of us can also tell them to get lost by never stepping foot into their fried food chain.
Ideally, I tend to think that there are a lot of gay rights supporters in these urban, left-leaning epicenters that will happily find their chicken elsewhere and that the majority of consumers in cities like D.C. and Chicago will inevitably dictate whether or not the backwards chicken chain fails. And that message – sent by millions of people – can be much more powerful than that of a single political leader. Unfortunately, the threat to ban Chick-fil-A is turning the chain into a freedom of speech martyr and civil rights casualty. And that’s taking the attention away from real issues of hate and homophobia.
That’s why this defense of free speech comes with a kind of caveat – it isn’t to be confused with an acceptance of anti-gay and other hate speech at all. That condemning the LGBT community has become somewhat of an acceptable pastime in America is anything but acceptable. And using religion to justify hate? That’s the real abomination. But I’m not so sure than banning a business or silencing an opinion we may not like is the way to achieve equal rights.
So before you praise these mayors (however gay-friendly) for taking a stand against Chick-fil-A, here’s an important question you need to ask yourself: Should a political leader have the right to ban any person or company from freely operating under the guidelines of the law? And what would you say if these same mayors (or the conservative equivalents) called for a boycott of all gay bars or adult shops on the grounds that, well, they simply don’t “like” them?