Chick-fil-A: No Foul Play

by Dallas Moffis

Dan Cathy, president and CEO of Chick-fil-A was asked point blank on a recent radio interview if he was in support of “traditional marriage” (which of course is just a politically correct way of saying “Do you think gays/lesbians should be denied the right to be married?”). His response?

“Guilty as charged.”

Guilty indeed found the public. Guilty of being a homophobic bigot. Guilty of not promoting diversity, and not being inclusive. The company started to back peddle faster than a cornerback chasing an all pro wide receiver. The only problem was the damage had been done, and politicians were jumping at the opportunity to attack the fast food chain. Mayors from Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago declared that the restaurant would not be permitted to open up in their cities. Boston’s mayor Thomas Menino went as far to say they would not allow a company into their city that does not support equal freedom for all, and that Chick-fil-A was the perfect example of such a company.

The most damaging blow for the company has been from it’s own supporters, and partners. The Jim Henson company quickly pulled its products out from the restaurant’s kids meal menus. CEO Lisa Henson who has been a long standing supporter of gay marriage went as far to donate every dollar they received from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD. When Chick-fil-A turned to handing out Berenstain Bear books out with their kids meals, the authors of the popular children’s books distanced themselves from the restaurant by saying they had no control over the deal, and could not do anything to change the partnership. It seemed like Chick-fil-A could not buy a friend outside of the usual right wing support one would come to expect.

The reaction by the partners of Chick-fil-A is appropriate. From a historical stand point, many companies have distanced themselves from people or situations that were controversial. There is absolutely no reason the authors of the Berenstain Bears should be taking any flak for their comments. They are in the business of trying to sell moral based kids books, and being in the center of this controversy is doing them no favors. The public should not insist they be forced to support Chick-fil-A simply because they made a business deal. How can anyone really blame these companies for pulling out?

Lets say you and your neighbor had an agreement that the two of you were going to take turns cleaning the sidewalk outside your house in the common area. After sometime your neighbor goes to a city council meeting and says he believes child molesting should be legal, and sparks a huge outcry within your community. Wouldn’t you distance yourself from the person? You would be well within your rights to call off your agreement, and stop associating yourself with the person. Mind you, your neighbor did not do anything illegal, and was simply exercising their first amendment rights. You could even justify taking your actions a step further by donating money to victims of child molesters. You are entitled to your own decisions and opinions just as much as your neighbor is. The Jim Henson company chose to not only distance themselves, but take an opposite stance in the situation. This is a reaction we not only defend in the US, but support. There should be open debate, amongst the public, and ideas should be challenged within the legal limit.

Another important point that needs to be clarified in this case is the idea that someones freedom of speech is being denied or violated upon. The right wing media started with a massive counter attack on the boycott efforts of the public, saying the CEO was well within his rights to have an opinion. To punish an American citizen for his right to free speech seemed downright un-American. The most substantial argument people from the right seem to be making, is that what is happening to Chick-fil-A is bordering on discrimination itself. In fact it would seem mayors, and businesses alike are simply not recognizing CEO Dan Cathy’s right to his own religious freedoms. Can politicians and companies shun Dan Cathy’s company because he has these strong religious convictions.

The answer is simply yes. It takes some maturity to understand that your first amendment right does not protect you from losing your friends, your families support, your job, or your public image. Specializing in employment law, Donna Ballman wrote an article for AOL news that simply debunked the notion that you can not get fired for exercising your freedom of speech. If you work in the private sector you can in fact be fired and or reprimanded for comments that were made based on personal beliefs (be it political or otherwise) inside or outside the workplace. Chick-Fil-A is well within their rights to fire a person if they support gay marriage and make their opinions public. It would be a double standard if the American public could not chastise Mr. Cathy for his comments. None of the reactions by the people or the partners has been illegal in any way. It’s impossible for anyone to argue Mr. Cathy’s first amendment rights are being denied simply because people who disagree with him are legally exercising their first amendment rights to do so.

What’s also sadly not getting enough attention is the fact that religion seems to get free cart blanche to make up laws that are “moralistically based on faith.” Some states prohibit the sale of alcohol on Sundays. What is so special about sunday that no one of any faith can have a swig of their favorite liquor before the work week starts? The logic of a politician who supports a “dry Sunday” is one that wants to be re-elected, and one who wants to represent the will of the people. If the people don’t want alchol to be sold on Sundays, and a politician wants a job, he must represent that belief. The duty of a politician is to represent the majority that has elected him/her to speak on their behalf. If the politician does not represent the will of the people they are not doing their job.

The mayors who are attacking Chick-fil-A’s stance have a responsibility to uphold the will of the people. Its clear that people in cities such as San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago  are in support of gay marriage. The voting track record of the people in these cities proves that Chick-fil-A would not be met with great support if they were to open shop in any of those places. It would be rather irresponsible of these politicians to not say something in support of the people who live in their communities. It would be irresponsible of these politicians to not put up a fight against Chick-fil-A. Keep in mind, politicians in places that do not support gay marriage are posing with bags of Chick-fil-A burgers, and no one is getting upset about that. Its their job to be representatives of the people who elected them, and their acting well within their right to do so.

The fact is we are all responsible for the things we say, and even top CEO’s need to recognize the importance of withholding their opinions on hot button issues. Protestors have begun lining the outside of Chick-fil-A’s across the country and have every right to voice their opinion as long as they know they are risking their jobs, and or friends in the process. Its a risk we all must understand we are taking when blogging, or posting on social media websites. Chick-fil-A has turned into a battle ground in the gay marriage debate, and that is not a place most companies would like to see themselves involved in. There should be a point made that neither Mr. Cathy or Chick-fil-A as a company has come out complaining of foul play. Everyone in that company knew that once those comments were made, all these reactions should be expected, and that complaining or crying about them would not make any sense. The only course of action they can take is to be quiet and pretend to look like a victim. Public support for Chick-fil-A’s stance is acceptable, but to say the criticism they are receiving is unfair is ignorant.



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