Friday, July 27, 2012

Chick-fil-A, Boycotts, Gay marriage and Common Sense

The President of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, made statements that expressed his opposition to gay marriage for religious reasons. He is a conservative Christian.
'I think we’re inviting God’s judgment when we shake our fist at him, you know, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage." And I pray on God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try and redefine what marriage is all about,' he said. 
This immediately started requests for retraction and calls for boycotts, accusations of discrimination and most ominously government officials telling him to stay out of their vicinity.
This really touches on something that I've noticed for a while now and I don't think it's healthy. Both right and left do it.
  1. The turning of honest difference of opinion into heresy that must be zealously stamped out.
  2. The attempt to hurt someone's business for political reasons.
  3. The attempt to get around free speech protections by recasting ideas as hate speech or discrimination.
  4. The attempt to use government to achieve the first three points.

Whether we think that Dan Cathy is a bigot or not, his position on marriage, that it's between one man and one woman, is one held by millions of Americans, including until quite recently, President Obama. Remember this quote?  "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix." Of course the President said that before he was elected but I know he was being honest with us.  Perhaps Mr. Cathy will also "evolve" when he runs for President. Do we really want to say that everyone who supports traditional marriage is a hateful individual?

Is it a good idea to mix politics and business? This is a trickier question because obviously there are some instances where I do think boycotts are useful but those tend to be cases where the company is engaging in illegal or unethical  behavior (i.e. discrimination or pollution). I understand why people might oppose a new strip club or liquor store opening up in their neighborhood. But those examples aside is it good for you as an individual to only engage in commerce with people that agree with you on everything? Do you for example, not shop at Whole Foods because the founder and CEO, John Mackey is a free market libertarian who opposes ObamaCare and unions and doesn't believe in climate change? Or maybe you do shop at Whole Foods because the founder and CEO, John Mackey is a vegan who has been extremely helpful in the battle to increase standards for humane animal treatment, promoted organic foods and sustainable farming, has donated his stock portfolio to charity and placed caps on executive pay. Is it good for the country as a whole if everyone starts to disengage from people who are not like them? I don't understand the urge to punish people you don't agree with until they change their tune. The world is full of people who think my views are just as silly as I think theirs are. That's life.

If you work in a large corporation as I do there's an excellent chance that you will run across people in positions of authority that will have rather different views than you do. Take it from me it's NOT a good idea to get into political discussions with your direct supervisors about affirmative action, the war in Afghanistan or feminism. But if you discover that your boss's boss's boss thinks that Glenn Beck has it right, do you continue to work there? Or if you are of more conservative bent and you learn that the company CIO thinks the problem with this country is that it needs a good dose of Euro-style social welfare and confiscation of guns, do you stand up and tell her off and then quit? Or in those situations do you say, hey I need this job and as long as I am treated fairly I will stay? Because after all, business is business and those idiots people have a right to their opinions.
There is not as far as I know any claim that Dan Cathy oversees a corporate culture of gay hatred. He has not as far as I know publicly used anti-gay slurs, called for beatings of gays, claimed that he would refuse to hire, promote or serve gays, made anti-gay jokes, or made snide comments about Broadway or West Hollywood. All he did was say he believes that marriage is between a man and woman and contribute money to organizations that feel the same. For that Boston's Mayor Tom Menino sends a letter to Chick-fil-A stating that they are not welcome while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Aldermen are also making noises about preventing the company from expanding in Chicago

Whatever you think about Dan Cathy or his views, do you really want a government star chamber deciding, for purely political reasons, to try to prevent a company from doing business? That is a pretty obvious, blatant and ugly violation of the First Amendment. If you support that because you happen to think that Dan Cathy is a twit, then would you also support a local government in a more conservative area trying to prevent a lesbian bookstore from opening or demanding to know if a Curves franchise owner believes in abortion rights or sending questionnaires to a dance club to find out the owner's stance on interracial dating?
I think that any new boycott of Chick-fil-A will peter out just like the previous ones did. Remember that NAACP boycott of South Carolina or Target stores? Exactly.


Is it automatically bigotry to support traditional marriage?

Do you occasionally do business with people who hold different political beliefs than you do? If so where do you draw the line?

Is it smart business to put your religious or political views out there for debate?

Should local governments try to prevent Chick-fil-A from expanding?

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