Just a few weeks ago, Chick-Fil-A was just another fast food joint, and certainly not one at the center of the marriage equality debate. Sure, activists in the know were well aware of the Christian identified company’s homophobic tendencies as their foundation pumped serious coinage into the coffers of some of the more notoriously and virulently anti-gay entities hell-bent on making people unhappy and actively seeking to deny them their rights (if not torture, bully them or drive them to suicide).
After being confronted about the ramifications of his company’ support for bigotry under the guise of traditional marriage, the company’s president, Dan Cathy — one of those deluded men who genuinely believes his heterosexual propensity for pussy makes him superior somehow, qualifying him to cherry-pick portions of the bible that nourish his hate and bigotry – rather than distance his company from his personally held hatred, declared Chick-Fil-A “guilty as charged.”
The New Civil Rights Movement editor, David Badash, who has been covering the increasingly polarizing issue from the outset, observes the mixed results as “big city mayors from San Francisco to Boston to Chicago to New York have all weighed in on banning Chick-Fil-A from their cities.”
And we can debate whether it’s appropriate for mayors or politicians to get involved, just like we did when politicians decided that despite the American constitution, it was okay to violate the First Amendment rights of Muslim Americans from building a community center in downtown Manhattan because it might irrationally upset people. There’s no harm in them expressing their disgust. Denying Chick-Fil-A permits to do business in the absence of demonstrably prejudicial hiring practices or conduct, however, is an overreaction, and frankly, a big mistake.
Some (my own friends included), flummoxed by the boycott, have been asking questions such as: “Can I eat there without supporting their position?…. like you eating a pork chop doesn’t affect me as a Jew ….and does not make you anti-Semitic.”
You can’t separate the two. Eating a pork chop doesn’t affect anyone other than the eater and the pig (unless you bought the pork chop at Chick-Fil-A).
Christian beliefs — not all, but particularly those selectively applied as relating to sexual orientation, (since adultery and children born out of wedlock or eating shellfish are somehow more forgivable, despite the Bible spelling out equally dire consequences) — are about specifically and deliberately denying rights to a group of people for who they are.
Most believe that one’s sexual orientation is not a choice, and despite it being a legitimate social choice, let’s go with that for now – (think carefully — do you remember choosing to be straight?)
Eating at Chick-Fil-A — actively giving money to and supporting a company that in turn gives significant sums of money to groups that perpetrate ugly and unconscionable acts (like electrocute children showing signs of gender non-conformity, or spread vile and baseless rumors that are so hurtful and damaging to young people, the suicide rate among gay and lesbian teens is significantly higher than those of their straight counterparts), makes you complicit in that, even if that’s not how you feel or what you believe.
Imagine if instead of gay people, Chick-Fil-A decided to give money to organizations that sought to demonize Hispanics and deny them the same rights that everyone else enjoys on simply the way they were born.
Or if their foundation was giving money to anti-Semitic organizations that exported hatred in the form of books and programs to countries like Syria or Saudi Arabia, where they were used to enact legislation that criminalized Judaism and punished those even supporting Jews to long hard prison sentences and the death penalty. Because that’s exactly what the organizations that Chick-Fil-A is actively financing are doing.
So while the President of Chick-Fil-A is entitled to his personal beliefs, as ugly, judgmental and dangerous as they may be, and when confronted about the accusations — in the name of his company — deemed the company “guilty as charged,” he made a choice, and threw down a gauntlet.
And in so doing, he changed the conversation and dynamic from being about whether he is entitled to his own personal beliefs, to actively directing profits from his company to destroy and deny basic rights to a whole group of people, who like everyone else in the country, are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, many of whom in the service of their country, and protecting those ideals, are willing to put their lives on the line to ensure them.
And so even if you’re straight and love Chick-Fil-A, you have a choice, and ultimately it requires making a sacrifice. You can’t pretend that spending money there doesn’t support the dangerous organizations that the company actively funds and sponsors.
There’s no way to spin this other than to acknowledge that you’re choosing to support a hateful and dangerous agenda in every bite of a Chicken-Fil-A meal you choose to eat.
And unlike the sexual orientation of the millions Dan Cathy despises and deems himself superior to, the choice is yours.
Clinton Fein is an internationally acclaimed author, artist, and First Amendment activist, best-known for his 1997 First Amendment Supreme Court victory against United States Attorney General Janet Reno. Fein has also gained international recognition for his Annoy.com site, and for his work as a political artist. Fein is on the Board of Directors of the First Amendment Project, “a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition.” Fein’s political and privacy activism have been widely covered around the world. His work also led him to be nominated for a 2001 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award.
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