Thursday, August 02, 2012

Chick-fil-A, gay marriage, and humanity

The recent ruckus over Chick-fil-A and gay rights has me a bit perplexed. After all, it hasn't been a secret that the company donates massive amounts of money to groups that oppose gay marriage, including a notable hate group. I found this out years ago, and since then have significantly limited my CFA spending to almost nothing.

Then, recently Dan Cathy spoke out specifically against gay marriage, announcing that gay rights supporters are "inviting God's judgment on our nation," and suddenly everyone who has been ignoring the financials for years decided action was needed. Talk of a boycott starting bouncing around again (for about the hundredth time in recent memory), and then Mike Huckabee was all this is just more hatin' on Christians and boycotters are bullying us and decrying the intolerance of people who don't like their money being filtered to anti-gay hate groups, and suddenly its an issue.

First of all, this isn't really news. Where have you all been for the past few years? Boycotts of CFA have been happening for at least a few years now. I can only guess that the reason for CFA Appreciation Day as a response to this most recent call for boycotts is because it is an election year, with an incumbent Democrat, in a political climate that has been divisively (and dangerously) polarized by (in my opinion) the rise of Tea Party extremists.

Secondly, this isn't about CFA being boycotted for being Christian. Ever since I can remember, CFA has been closed on Sundays, and nobody has said word one about a boycott. Most people I know, including many who boycott CFA, do not give even a single crap about the religion of their favorite restaurant's owner. Sure, Christians might be more likely to go eat dinner at their church friend's restaurant, and LGBT people might be more likely to patronize a "family-owned" establishment. Hell, most of the LGBT people I know are Christians, and might fall into both of the above camps! But for the most part, I've never met anyone who quit eating at their favorite Chinese restaurant because the owners are Buddhist. When I go out to eat at a local place, I don't ask for the owner's personal tithing records before I place my order. Good food is good food, and most of us like good food. Saying that this is "an attack on Christian values" makes you look silly, unless I missed the part where Christ encouraged us to judge others and donate thousands to groups that try to link an entire group of people to criminal behavior in which they do not participate.

Third, this isn't a free speech issue. The first amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Again, unless I missed the part where our government stepped in and shut Chick-fil-A down for its owner making some public statements and for company donations to questionable nonprofits, this isn't a free speech issue. Free speech means the government shall not impede your right to have free speech. It doesn't protect you from the social and financial consequences of what you say. For the record, it also doesn't protect you from being offended by what someone else says. Saying that a Chick-fil-A boycott is an attack on free speech makes you look like you need to re-read the Bill of Rights.

Fourth, Cathy's right to free speech (and its consequences) aside, Chick-fil-A participates in discriminatory business practices that are legally questionable. The parent company has been sued 12 times on charges of employment discrimination. Muslim workers have been fired for refusing to participate in prayers to Jesus Christ, and employees are regularly screened for meeting the "Christian values" litmus test before being hired. If you don't want me to discriminate against you as a private business owner based on your religion, I'd love it if you'd not discriminate against potential employees based on their religion. If you're running a church, mosque, synagogue, or other explicitly religious non-profit, then I understand a need to have like-minded employees. Otherwise, you have no business discriminating. We do not live in a theocracy, and our country has laws against workplace discrimination.

Fifth, there is a difference between a business owner expressing an opinion that does not directly harm potential customers, and a business owner expressing an opinion that does directly harm potential customers. If I, as a woman in a heterosexual marriage, walk into a store and see a sign saying that they support gay marriage, this has no direct impact on my marriage. They aren't encouraging people to take away my rights. Their sign is not trying to invalidate my marriage, and I won't get a letter in the mail saying that my marriage has been dissolved by the state if gay marriage passes. If, on the other hand, a committed same-sex couple walks into a business and sees a sign opposing gay marriage (or reads interviews in which the business owner opposes gay marriage, blames gays for God's wrath on our entire country, and only supports the "biblical definition of the family unit"), this does directly impact them. They have every right to not spend their money there, as do those who stand in solidarity with them.

Sixth, let's just explore the "biblical definition" of marriage for a minute.

So, really, it's not really biblical marriage being questioned; it's anti-gay sentiment.

Seventh, we don't live in a theocracy. Our government should not be defining marriage based on one religious tradition's definition of marriage. Plenty of Christian churches worldwide (and in the United States) bless same-sex unions, as do many non-Christian religious traditions. To not allow two consenting adults from one of those religious traditions to enter into a loving, committed legal relationship abridges not only their civil rights (setting them aside as an inferior class not deserving of the same rights as heterosexuals), but their rights to religious freedom. If the government is going to be in the business of registering marriages as a legal contract for tax and other governmental purposes, it needs to do so in a way that does not discriminate with regard to religion. Two people whose religious tradition blessed their union should be able to walk into the courthouse, hand over their paperwork, and have their union documented just the same as any other Americans. And for the love of the one you call Savior, please don't say things like the government shouldn't redefine what God has already defined. Unless The Almighty Himself revised our Constitution, church and state are still separate. The government shouldn't be turning to religious texts to define legal contracts in a secular democracy, anyway.

Eighth, did I mention that Chick-fil-A helps fund a known hate group? The Family Research Council, however well-intentioned, "often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science." Click the link for a few direct quotes. How many more LGBTQ kids have to die, either at their own hands or the hands of their abusers and bullies, before we realize that what FRC and similar groups are proposing isn't working, and isn't Christian?

Ninth, spending your money as a consumer in places that support your beliefs doesn't make you a bully. It's a sign of integrity. While I found the outpouring of support from the conservative community yesterday to be sad and reflective of how far modern Christianity has strayed from Jesus's teachings, I completely support and respect their right to put their money where their heart is. I likewise, work to regularly put my money where my heart is. Choosing not to spend my money at CFA doesn't make me a bully any more than you choosing to eat some waffle fries would automatically make you a bigot. How 'bout we stop the name-calling and respect our differences?

Yesterday, I knew there would be people coming out for "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" at the CFA at our local mall. I chose not to be a part of any vocal or visible protests, and instead invited a few friends to join me down the hall at a small, locally-owned pizza joint. The owner, Alfredo, is very much Italian, and (from what I hear) most likely Catholic. I'd bet he probably doesn't personally support gay marriage. I could have chosen to have my dinner somewhere else, at a business that is known for being liberal, or owned by a gay family. Ultimately, though, I chose Alfredo's for a few reasons. Alfredo welcomes everyone. no matter who you are. He doesn't use his business as a vehicle for shaming people, blaming them for society's ills, or taking away their rights. He's about the pizza.  And given the accusations of "anti-Christian bullying" (which I think are ridiculous anyway), it was important for me to personally demonstrate that most of us don't choose boycott (or not) based on someone's religious or personal beliefs; we do so based upon whether or not they use their business as a front for promoting one worldview to the detriment of others, funding hate groups, or taking away others' civil rights. I will gladly eat at a business owned by someone whether they support my views or not, as long as they don't use their business as a vehicle for spreading and supporting injustice towards minority groups. I don't know where Alfredo stands on these issues, and it doesn't matter to me as long as he conducts his business in a way that is welcoming and has integrity.

This is the crux of the matter. Justice vs. injustice. Acceptance vs. judgment. Hate vs. love.

It's pretty simple, really.


erinmomof3 said...

This is so well written. I would like to share it, if that is alright. Well done!

erinmomof3 said...

So well-written. I really enjoyed reading this. Well done!