Before starting this column, a correction:
Back on June 21 I wrote that, although the local General Motors plant had every right to fly the “gay pride flag” and that people who disagreed should do so respectfully, the company wasn't really demonstrating a commitment to diversity unless it also accommodated opposing viewpoints.
What I should have said was that GM is a hateful, bigoted company that shouldn't be allowed to manufacture or sell its products in this, the “City of Churches.”
A little extreme? Apparently you haven't been paying attention to this week's debate involving the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, whose ability to operate in at least two supposedly open-minded cities has been threatened by politicians angered by its CEO's traditional Christian views concerning gay marriage.
In Chicago – which is openly working with the vehemently anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan to curb street violence – Alderman Joe Moreno said he would attempt to block plans for a new Chick-fil-A store because of its “discriminatory policies,” and Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the company's values “are not Chicago values. If you're going to be part of the community, you should reflect Chicago values.”
And in Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino urged Chick-fil-A to “back out” of its plans to operate there.
Boycotts are as American as apple pie, and if gay-rights advocates want to deny Chick-fil-A their dollars, that's their right. “Most people in the (gay) community have been aware of (the company's) anti-gay stance and have avoided eating there,” said Nikki Fultz, a leader of the Fort Wayne Pride group.
But government intimidation of a private business for expressing a legal, mainstream but politically incorrect opinion is something else entirely – and should be rejected by principled people on both sides of the gay-rights issue.
“It's fascism,” said a 32-year-old customer named “Ben” as he stood outside the Chick-fil-A in Jefferson Pointe, one of two stores in Fort Wayne. “It's like a conservative saying Ben & Jerry's (ice cream) shouldn't be allowed in town because of the causes it supports.”
His analogy is apt, because the list of politically active businesses is hardly confined to the right. Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's, for example, was an outspoken supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, supports legislation to combat “climate change” and advocates policies to reduce the “immoral inequity that exists between classes in our contry.” And on Friday, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos announced a $2.5 million donation to defend Washington state's gay-marriage law.
If it is acceptable for a businessman to use his own money to support gay marriage – which has been rejected in all 32 states in which it has been put up for a vote – how can it not also be acceptable for Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy to tell the Baptist Press this month that “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit”? There is no evidence the company discriminates against employees or customers.
Honest but respectful debate over profoundly difficult and personal issues is not “hate,” it is democracy. But that's hardly the goal of those who would use government to silence or squash those with whom they disagree.
Late this week, both Moreno and Menino came to their senses and concluded that, regardless of their personal beliefs, they cannot use their public offices to punish company officials for their personal beliefs. But even though polls show Chicago residents are about evenly split on the gay-marriage issue and Boston is heavily influenced by Catholicism – which shares Cathy's traditionalist definition of family – this wasn't the first time those who most vocally demand tolerance for themselves and favored groups have been least willing to afford others the same courtesy.
Remember how gay-rights advocates "flipped off" the portrait of Ronald Reagan during a gay-pride reception at the White House recently?
Founded in 1946 by Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A says it remains committed to Bible-based business principles, including closing its stores on Sunday, staying debt-free (no wonder the politicians hate it!) and returning a percentage of its profits into the communities in which it operates. The company also plans to create 7,000 jobs this year – unless the politicians can think of another way to stop it.
If you don't like the company's politics, go enjoy some overpriced ice cream. It's still your money, no matter what the president says.
Me, I'm in the mood for a good chicken sandwich.