Have you heard that the head of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain is anti-gay marriage? That’s not exactly how CEO Dan Cathy put it, but close enough.
In a recent interview with the Baptist Press, Cathy, an evangelical Christian, made clear that Chick-fil-A is a company that supports Christian values and lives by biblical teachings. This includes closing all its restaurants on Sunday, as well as expressing support for “traditional marriage.”
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family owned business, a family led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that …”
Cathy’s comments were quickly jumped upon by various activists, media members and even politicians as being “anti-gay” and “bigoted.”
Protests were organized and boycotts were suggested, which is fine. What was not fine was how a number of politicians and government officials said they wished to punish the company for the expressed religious beliefs of its owners.
No one has yet suggested that Chick-fil-A restaurants are refusing to serve gay customers or even refusing to hire gay employees. What matters is that Dan Cathy has an opinion, shared Eas it happensF by millions of otherAmericans, that offends the sensibilities of a particular constituency and a few elected officials.
In the meantime, conservatives from Mike Huckabee to Rick Santorum to Sarah Palin announced their support for Chick-fil-A and encouraged their supporters to make last Wednesday Chick-fil-AAppreciation Day. Thousands did just that at 1,600 locations nationwide. Customers clogged the drive-through lanes and crowded parking lots for a chance to buy a chicken sandwich and show their support.
The company said in a statement the turnout made for “an unprecedented day,” although it says it doesn’t release exact sales numbers, according to TheAssociated Press.
The game of chicken continued last Friday, as gay rights activists and other supporters of marriage equality planned a national “Kiss In” at Chick-fil-A restaurants.
Participants were encouraged to come to the fast-food restaurants and kiss a fellow demonstrator of the same sex. Or, just hug someone. “Without question, Dan Cathy has every right to voice his opinions and beliefs,” Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and LesbianAlliance Against Defamation, said in a statement. “But he should meet and get to know the people that he’s speaking out against — the people who are harmed by his company’s multimillion-dollar donations to anti-gay hate groups working to hurt everyday LGBTAmericans and break apart loving families,” Graddick said, referring to “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” individuals. Seriously? The flap over Cathy’s comments, both in support and in protest, is a bit of a stretch in both directions.
The CEO is entitled to voice his beliefs as long as they don’t cross the line of discrimination, and those who support his beliefs can show their support by buying more chicken sandwiches. Those who don’t agree can say so, and they can eat burgers, if that’s what they choose.
Many are couching this episode as being entirely about free speech, but in truth, it’s about tolerance.
Tolerance means living alongside one another and accepting our differences, even in taste.
Believe it or not, not everyone likes chicken sandwiches.