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Chick-Fil-A: Because It’s Only ‘Free Speech’ If You Agree With Homophobes

by Zinnia Jones on August 2, 2012

in Civil Rights,Discrimination,News,Politics,Zinnia Jones

Post image for Chick-Fil-A: Because It’s Only ‘Free Speech’ If You Agree With Homophobes

John Rocker of WorldNetDaily exemplifies the popular misconceptions about freedom of speech that have been all too common in the ongoing controversy over Chick-fil-A:

Technically, as our Founding Fathers intended, we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement.

He, and those who share this sentiment, couldn’t be more wrong. As they see it, Chick-Fil-A COO Dan Cathy is perfectly free to declare that supporters of marriage equality are shaking their fist at God and “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.” On this, they’re certainly correct – he has every right to believe and to state publicly that those of us who favor equally recognizing the love and commitment of same-sex couples are literally provoking an all-powerful deity to cast some unspecified but vaguely threatening “judgment” on our country. And the company is entirely within its rights to contribute millions of dollars to groups that oppose LGBT equality, such as the Marriage & Family Foundation, the National Christian Foundation, the Family Research Council, and Exodus International.

Where they go wrong is in assuming that the rest of us are not free to speak out against Cathy’s beliefs and the company’s financial support of these groups. And yes, this freedom does encompass “scorn and/or ridicule.” Never in our nation’s history has the First Amendment been construed so narrowly that expressions of scorn and ridicule are inherently excluded from its protection, and we cannot legitimately expect that we will never be subjected to such scorn and ridicule by those who disagree with us. Freedom of speech encompasses even angry, uncivil, and mocking speech.

In failing to recognize that, Rocker and others are most emphatically not respecting our own “undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely.” To them, Cathy is free to depict us as being in opposition to a perfectly good God – a “non-agreement” that it’s apparently okay for us to have to fear, and which somehow does not constitute scorn by their estimation – while those of us who disagree with him do not have the freedom to denounce his views and stand up for ourselves. Their concept of freedom, for Cathy, Chick-fil-A and themselves, requires eliminating our freedom. That is not what free speech means. It is not and cannot be freedom from criticism, because criticism – whether it’s claiming we’re shaking our fist at God, or calling Dan Cathy a homophobic twit – is itself free speech. And expecting us not to let Chick-fil-A’s beliefs and actions affect our own beliefs and actions means literally telling us what to think, say and do.

Thanks to this pervasive misunderstanding, supporters of Chick-fil-A have deceived themselves into thinking they’re on some righteous crusade in defense of fundamental rights. They aren’t. The rights of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, anti-gay groups, and bigots in general were never at risk and never in question, because criticism and boycotts do nothing to prevent them from exercising their rights. But they do not have a right to our silence. They do not have a right to our agreement. And they do not have a right to our money. Those who pretend their patronage of Chick-fil-A does anything to protect freedom are cynically using an apparently noble cause as a cover for the less palatable act of consciously choosing to support a business that’s openly and unapologetically hostile to human equality.

Image: David Badash 

Zinnia Jones is an atheist activist, writer, and video blogger focusing on LGBTQ rights and religious belief. Originally from Chicago, she’s currently living in Florida with her partner Heather and their two children.

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hunterraye96 August 2, 2012 at 11:56 am

He has every right to say he doesn't agree with gay marriage. Heck, he's a very religious Christian man; we should have expected this. However, the reason why most logical people, like myself, are angry is because he actively donates millions of dollars of his customers' money to anti-gay "charities" to illegalize gay marriage all over the USA. That is why people are angry, and that's why thousands of people don't want his restaurants in their areas, and why thousands of people won't eat there anymore. Frankly, as a respectable, obviously intelligent person, he honestly should have expected all of this to happen when he came out with his feelings and about his "charity work".

raymbo August 2, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Well said and on point! Brava!

Scott_Rose August 3, 2012 at 11:30 am

I dare say there's a further element to this, and that would be that there are limits on an American's "freedom" to finance terrorism whether here or abroad. Where US evangelicals are funding political gay bashing in foreign lands like Uganda, where the foreign governments are themselves active in the anti-gay terrorism and are allowing tabloids to publish names and addresses of known homosexuals with calls for them to be executed, there very possibly are legal mechanisms domestic and international that prohibit the funding of such terrorism against a minority. If Cathy had given money to a foreign government entity that enabled and did not bring to justice tabloid publishers calling for Americans to be executed and printing the names and addresses of Americans living in that country, Cathy and his supporters 1) would not be so cavalier about their "freedom" to fund terrorism; and 2) you can be sure that the State Department would already have limited Cathy's "freedom" to fund that terrorism.

JohnWWoolley August 3, 2012 at 3:58 pm

You're absolutely right that we should all be entirely free to express disagreement with what other people say, or to boycott businesses we disapprove of. But … do we really want the government penalizing or punishing people for their opinions? (Even if they're crappy opinions?) When mayors, or city council members, of major cities announce their intention to use the power of the government to punish a restaurant chain for what their CEO said about a political question, we might want to think before we say Hurrah. Because next time, it could be us and our opinions that are being penalized. The First Amendment has to protect everyone, or it won't protect anyone reliably.

torjohnson111 August 18, 2012 at 3:33 am

HOW DARE YOU!!!!! this is free america! You People That are trying to hurt the familys are the TRUE HATERS!!!what do you think a dad feels when he's trying to raise a family and you people that must have some greavance with you own familys try to mess him up.?All we want is to have our families ,the way we were brought up,with love for our wives and children and all you want to do is try to mess it up!so what if you want to go and live together ! go ahead!Do the Nasty stuff u do! JUST LEAVE US OUT! we dont need to see your filthy PRIDE per aids..Your INsults YOUR, HATE!!!just because some where in the past your dad spanked you ….Get Over IT.crybaby!OOH MY DAD HURT ME>>>>Grow up.GROW UP!So what if you suck dick! We dont need to know it!!I bet theres some freaky people out there doin other stuff,I DONT CARE>But when you try to ruin a childs _INNOCENCE by spreading your dirty stuff in the streets then your going to come up to some dads that may not be as forgiving as JesusTHINK.about your moms.Keep it in yer pants and show some respect..

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