Chicken flap

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - OPINION -

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.

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