Does Chick-fil-A President Dan T. Cathy have a right to speak his mind?  Absolutely.  This is still America, for cryin’ out loud?

Was it smart of him as a businessman representing Chick-fil-A — whether his personal beliefs coincide with the company’s philosophy or not — to come out on a radio broadcast and proudly state that he’s all for banning same-sex marriage?  Probably not, unless he wants to lose some customers.  At a time like that, a comment along the lines of “No comment” would suffice.

Chick-Fil-A's signature chicken sandwich
Chick-Fil-A’s signature chicken sandwich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it okay for a company like Chick-fil-A to have a corporate philosophy along the lines of, quoting from Dan Cathy in the July 2 Biblical Recorder, “”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. … We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.”  Yes, as a company, they have that right to have that corporate philosophy.  This is still America, for cryin’ out loud.

And consumers are free to make a choice to support or not support a company with that kind of philosophy.  After all, this is still America, for cryin’ out loud.

He made that statement because of Chick-fil-A’s sponsorships of and lobbying efforts having to do with banning same-sex marriage and the heated reactions from … consumers, or at least potential consumers.

“We intend to stay the course,” he continued. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

Again, was it smart for Chick-fil-A to use that corporate pulpit to spread its beliefs and try to affect change in the political scale?  Well, according to the Citizens United ruling, Chick-fil-A is a “person” with a voice and it’s the company’s God-given right to say and do whatever it damn well pleases, so if Citizens United is right — as the Supreme Court deemed it to be in a 5-4 ruling — then, yeah, it has that right.  Does it make it smart?  Not necessarily.  That’s up to the consumers.

For that matter, a company like Rackspace — a large IT hosting company in San Antonio — is certainly within its right to announce as it has that it’s dropping Chick-fil-A as a vendor at its mall’s food court.  Rackspace has a right to make that kind of business decision.

Image representing Rackspace as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

And Rackspace is certainly within its right — this is still America, for cryin’ out loud — to make a public statement of its own, just like Dan Cathy did.

“There are hundreds of food vendors that don’t have a public social agenda that serve great food without controversy. We have made the decision to explore new vendors to add to the pool that serve our headquarters,” the company said in a statement.

Do the city governments in Boston and Chicago or anywhere else have a right to tell Chick-fil-A that it can’t do business in their cities because of its philosophy or religious beliefs?  No.  This is where that “separation” gets tricky.  No government — whether it’s city or county or state or national — should have the right by itself to punish a company because of something one of its company’s leaders says.  That kind of action does run dangerously close to trampling on that basic American right to freedom of speech.

“[D]enying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation,” says UCLA law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh.  For what it’s worth, a large number of liberals do fall on the side of leaders in Boston and Chicago being wrong in threatening to keep Chick-fil-A out of their cities because it poses a bit of a threat to First Amendment rights.

It was fascinating on Wednesday to read comments from people on both sides of this whole Chick-fil-A “issue,” and there was one in particular that raised a good question.

“I wonder how many of these ‘supporters of free speech’ would have turned up if the owner had said that he endorsed the Koran???”

That’s where this whole Chick-fil-A “issue” turns ugly.  I put the word “issue” in quotes because while so many people were so excited about Chick-fil-A getting such a huge turnout Wednesday because of Mike Huckabee calling for a nationwide show of support for a fast food chain, the House of Representatives was voting on whether tax cuts should be extended which could impact so many more people’s lives than whether a fast food place supports or doesn’t support or whether it can or can’t speak out on same-sex marriage.

Our priorities are so screwed up it’s frightening.

Personally, I’ve never given Chick-fil-A enough business to even care what it believes or whether it loses business or gains a slew of customers.  I can find better chicken sandwiches elsewhere, thank you.  In the short run, Huckabee’s “show of leadership” will leave a nice reflection on Chick-fil-A’s balance sheet for a bit.  But how many people are going to line up like that day after day?

In the long term, one thing may come back to bite the company and have a reaction similar to their milkshake machines exploding and leaving a mess all over its public relations face that won’t be seen in long lines outside their doors.  It’ll be messy when it comes to the vote that’s seen long-term by consumers’ use of cash, debit, or credit cards at the company’s registers.

Allowing a company like Chick-fil-A to say whatever it believes and stand behind its founders’ personal philosophy is one thing.  To have a company poke its nose into people’s personal lives through sponsoring events or lobbying when it comes to a divisive moral issue like same-sex marriage and use its revenues to do so is another.

After all, how many people who don’t really feel it’s any of their business who gets married to whom are going to feel comfortable knowing that their money that they paid to Chick-fil-A for that chicken breast sandwich and waffle fry combo was used in part to fight against same-sex marriage?  That’s where the proverbial ice cream machine could blow up in Chick-fil-A’s PR face and leave a bit of a mess.  Mixing business along with trying to force a belief or a way of life on their customers doesn’t always mix, and we’re seeing the results.  Political division via a fast food chain’s Christian philosophy.  Amazing.

That’s where toeing the line between separation of church and state is so tricky, yet so necessary.  We’ve seen how ugly it can get before when lawmakers — including those calling themselves Christians — try to poke their noses where they really don’t belong … into people’s deepest personal lives.

This whole debate over same-sex marriage is nothing new.  There have been other things come up similar to this in the past that created just as much division, and in many ways we still see it today.

For example, who’s familiar with anti-miscegenation laws?  They were around as late as 1967.  What are they?  Follow along as we look at the case of Loving v. Virginia.

Richard and Mildred Loving of Virginia were married in 1958 in Washington, D.C., so they could get around Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law. After exchanging legal vows, they went back to Virginia and were arrested in their bedroom for living together.  Virginia trial court Judge Leon Bazile suspended their sentence with the order that the Lovings leave Virginia and not return for 25 years.  They moved to Washington, D.C.

The Lovings appealed that judgment in 1963. In 1965, Bazile upheld his decision and spoke in favor of segregation, saying, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red, and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix.”

Richard Loving was white.  Mildred Loving was black.  And they were arrested in their bedroom because of it, based on a biblical interpretation or flat-out racial biases when it comes to interracial marriage.  For a look at the Lovings as they appeared in Life Magazine, click here.

In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that:

“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival. … To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.  The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations.  Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not to marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

It cannot be infringed by the state because United States laws were not designed to strictly follow biblical standards alone.  That’s where this thing called “separation of church and state” comes into play.

So, how does Chick-fil-A’s philosophy come down on the view of interracial marriage?  Would Dan Cathy like to address that matter in public as well?  After all, there are still people in this nation who do still have problems with interracial marriage, even those who consider themselves Christians, and they’re still willing to fight against that form of marriage as well.

After all, this is still America, for cryin’ out loud … right?

Copyright 2012, Daddysangbassdude Media


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