By Jeff Kazmierski, Copy Editor
Bellevue’s new Chick-fil-A is currently under construction, just a mile or so from where I live (as the crow flies). There’s been much excitement building ever since the news broke several months ago. People really like their chicken, and apparently there’s real demand for fried chicken sandwiches served six days a week.
Unfortunately for the restaurant chain, so has the controversy. Recently, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy put his company on the front pages, not for the quality of his product, but for some statements he made about same-sex marriage.
“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,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about,” Cathy said in a recent interview.
Well, he’s entitled to his opinion. And we’ll leave aside the question of which Biblical definition of marriage he’s referring to. His statements generated uproar in the gay community and among supporters, not merely because of the questionable nature of his comments, but because they drew attention to other, even more controversial positions Cathy has taken in recent years.
I have no problem with Cathy publicly stating his opinion. He’s entitled to it, and the First Amendment protects all speech, even that with which we disagree. But by hanging his views out in public for all to see, he invited the public to shine a spotlight on his other activities.
You see, in addition to being well known as a conservative Baptist, Cathy has also written checks to several conservative “pro-family” anti-gay organizations known for promoting socially, politically and morally questionable causes.
Take, for example, Exodus International, to which Cathy donated $1,000 in 2010. This organization promotes so-called “conversion therapy” which claims to change the sexual orientation of gay people.
There’s the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which received $480,000 of Cathy’s generosity, and which promotes programs which it claims “freed some people from homosexuality” and other sins.
And then there’s the Family Research Council, which got a $1,000 check from Chick. They spent thousands lobbying Congress in opposition to a resolution that would have condemned the Ugandan government’s infamous “kill the gays” law passed last year. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled FRC as a hate group for spreading lies about the LGBT community.
If that’s not enough, as the controversy was just beginning to stir, there emerged allegations that the manager of one local franchise actually demoted female employees and fired female workers so they could become stay-at-home mothers. The company itself has a long history of sexism and workplace discrimination, if the 12 lawsuits filed against it are any indicator.
No, I don’t begrudge Cathy the right to his opinion. He even has the right to express it in public, as we all do. But his right doesn’t trump those of the millions whose lives have been adversely impacted by the groups he’s supported over the years. Having freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee you a platform. The First Amendment is not a weapon one can use to shut down critics. And it certainly doesn’t protect you from criticism if you say something someone else finds objectionable.
So suffice to say, I will not be patronizing my local Chick-fil-A anytime soon. I think my hard-earned money will be better spent at establishments that don’t promote agendas that deny civil rights to my friends, colleagues and fellow students.