The recent barnyard brawling over the anti-gay stance of Chick-fil-A has certainly raised a commotion in the hen-house. Squawking and cackles erupted over news of statements made by the fast food eatery’s president/COO Dan Cathy, who seemed to publicly embrace that position after growing attention focused on donations the company makes to anti-gay groups.
In an interview, Cathy told the Baptist Press, “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.”
In another interview, Cathy reiterated his belief: “I think we are 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.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
Just in case it wasn’t explicitly clear, Cathy was blunt about describing the company’s support of ‘traditional’ marriage, “Guilty as charged.”
Cathy, the son of Chick-fil-A’s founder, made these statements after reports surfaced that the company, via its charitable arm, made close to $2 million in donations to groups actively working to discriminate against homosexuals and the LGBT community, including making some behaviors illegal and criminal, here and abroad. The issue at hand isn’t just about gay marriage, but also about employment, life choices, health insurance and, in some cases, survival.
Let's be very clear about the brouhaha raised after Cathy’s comments: This is NOT a first amendment issue; it’s really a civil rights issue. When you have an organization contributing money to groups actively engaged in trying to disenfranchise, segregate and isolate—let alone strip away civil rights from citizens—it is clearly a civil rights issue.
I emphatically contend that Cathy is entitled both to his opinion and his freedom to express it. In fact, I’m gratified that he has expressed it, because now we know where we stand, with him and with his company. His statements demonstrate his prejudices and bigotry, and they shed light on the discriminatory efforts his company’s profits support.
I’m perplexed by the contradictory nature of Cathy’s statement, characterizing those who have the ‘audacity to define what marriage is about’ as ‘prideful’ and ‘arrogant.’ Isn’t that exactly what Cathy was doing? Defining what marriage should be—between a man and a woman?
Protesters speaking out and demonstrating against those views are not intolerant of them. They are merely expressing their own view, that discrimination and segregation—whether cloaked in religious, moral or first amendment arguments—is still bigotry.
Imagine learning that KFC contributes to organizations campaigning for outlawing marriage between men and women of different races, based on arguments of sanctity or morality. Imagine discovering that the president of Taco Bell donates significant company profits to organizations that campaign for removing tax-exempt status of churches and synagogues, because of his interpretation of the phrase, ‘separation of church and state.’ If those moves were true, we’d certainly classify them as bigotry. So too, can we call Chick-fil-A’s actions as bigoted.
I’m glad to see that there have been mounting boycotts and protests against Chick-fil-A’s corporate dealings. They are not intolerant of someone else’s opinions or religious beliefs. Instead, such protests demonstrate an intolerance of intolerance itself, akin to those that that advanced civil rights legislation forward 50-60 years ago, and beyond. They harken back to sit-ins, Rosa Parks, abolitionists, Stonewall and women suffragists. We have a national history of accomplishing legislative equality and increasing public support in this way—that, to me, is more American than anything else.
In this case, like the others, it’s also tantamount to standing up to a bully.
But if we’re searching for some sort of religious foundation for condemning Chick-fil-A and Dan Cathy, perhaps we should look no further than the Golden Rule which, in addition to having some basis in all of the world’s major religions and ethical traditions, is a major tenet of Christianity: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s also expressed: “Love your neighbor as you would yourself.”
Isn’t that the most traditional value of all?