Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy. Photo courtesy of the LA Times
After taking some time away from blogging, I return today with a post that is sure to raise the angst of many of my readers. Let me preface this post by saying that my views on equality have not changed in any way. I stand steadfastly in favor of universal human equality, to include marriage equality, as I have in the past. That said I am also in favor of the preservation of other rights that ensure we continue the legacy of individual liberty into the future. Among those rights are the rights to free speech and religion.
That brings me to the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A. The comments made recently by Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy concerning marriage equality are hurtful to many including myself and they are an outright display of ignorance, intolerance, and bigotry. Cathy has raised the angst of virtually everyone who favors equality over ignorance. Even the mayors of Boston and Chicago have vowed to keep Chick-fil-A from expanding operations into their cities in response to Cathy’s comments. I have to ask whether we have all gone a little overboard in bashing Chick-fil-A.
I believe very strongly that ours is a nation where everyone should be free to be themselves without the kind of harassment and discrimination that has been an unfortunate part of our past. I believe that we are all free to believe what we wish to believe and that we are free to state our beliefs to the extent that we do not infringe on the liberty of others.
This leads to what puzzles me most. For some time now, Chick-fil-A has been a contributor to organizations that advocate against marriage equality yet few have raised a fuss over those contributions which do indirectly infringe on the liberty of others. What ultimately raised all of the controversy were the statements made by Dan Cathy that he is “guilty as charged” to allegations that he is against marriage equality and that he believes marriage is the exclusive privilege of straight people. Though I disagree with both the contributions and his stance, one is the free engagement in our current highly monetized and bastardized political process and the other is simply an exercise of free speech.
I cannot and will not encourage anyone to stand by Chick-fil-A while their leadership spouts off comments that are hurtful. Likewise, I cannot ask for anyone to support them while they engage in political activity aimed at denying equality to anyone. What I will ask is that each of us, as progressives who support individual liberty and freedom, stand in favor of Dan Cathy’s right to spew whatever venom he chooses so long as he is not actively discriminating against his employees or his customers. I will ask that none of us do as the mayors of Boston and Chicago have proposed, to use our political prowess to stifle Cathy’s right to make his company and himself look like buffoons.
We progressives cannot afford to be hypocritical on this issue. If we are to claim to be in favor of free speech when “Occupy” protesters speak on the streets of cities across the globe, we must also stand for free speech even when we don’t like what we are hearing.
Cathy’s thoughts or comments will not play a role in whether I eat there in the future, although Chick-fil-A's contributions will. As a police officer, I am certain I have bought food that was sold and prepared by someone who really didn’t like me because of who I am. They are entitled to their opinions and yes, at work, I carefully chose establishments that I either trust or where I can watch my food being prepared. There will be no spit burgers consumed by this officer.