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Concerning Chicken Sandwiches and Free Speech

The Chick-Fil-A controversy is NOT about gay marriage, our columnist says.

I typically don’t do this.

I’m not a lightning rod nor do I wish to be. But something has taken place in our society and culture that I believe will shape us for decades to come. It’s something that will change us as a nation and will have a direct impact on your family. Of course I’m talking about . . .

Chicken sandwiches!

Unless you live under a rock or without any access to any news source, you know that our nation has been embroiled in this highly charged and public debate over gay marriage. This particular situation really got hot in July of this year when Chick-Fil-A’s president Dan Cathy said, “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.” 

Once this quote and a few others hit the AP wire all hell broke loose. A flood of posts and comments on Twitter and Facebook started the rumor mill flying about what was really said and before you know it all of a sudden Chick-Fil-A became a homophobic, anti-gay, racist, blah blah blah. Add to the all of that the mayors of Chicago and Boston coming out against a food chain that sells chicken and then add to that Mike Huckabee and you have CFA day on August 1, 2012.

Yesterday, all across the country CFA’s were packed for hours, some to the point of actually running out of food to serve to all the multitudes of people. I did not eat at CFA on 8/1 but was able to get really prompt service at another local restaurant because of the lack of patrons there (I think everyone else was at Chick-Fil-A).

Then add to ALL of that, the LGBT community is planning its own “Kiss-in” protest on Friday (which will have occurred by the time this goes to press) and we have the making of a real big mess!

Some of you that actually know me might think that I would support Chick-Fil-A in their stance of marriage and some of you would be wrong. That’s the problem with what’s happening. I support Chick-Fil-A not because they believe this way or that way but because they make a really good chicken sandwich and the fact that we live in a FREE country!

In the past two days I have had coffee at Starbucks not because they support gay rights but because I really like their coffee. Does this mean that I must subscribe to the views of whatever establishment I choose to eat or drink in? 

At what point in our culture did it become ok to ban anyone because of an opinion? And at what point in our country’s history has it been ok to ban an establishment from entire cities because of a belief held by a corporate president? 

There are two main problems with this debate. One is a misunderstanding of what this is really about and one that directly impacts your children and the nation they will inherit from us. Let’s start with the first issue: Gay marriage.

This controversy is NOT about gay marriage, although both the left and the right have hijacked the discussion and labeled it as such. The reality is that this is a free speech issue. Do you and I have the right as American citizens to espouse to whatever belief system we choose? Do you and I have the right as American citizens to express those beliefs and opinions free from the worry of persecution? Ummm yes! If we don’t then there can be no public or private discourse.

This very idea, this founding principle upon which our nation rests is a brilliant idea and was one of the many reasons that we stood as a beacon to the world for much of our history. But recently we have plunged into a sea of stupidity and I fear that we may drown in it.

Whether I agree with CFA or its president is not the question or the issue at all.  The real issue is whether I believe if that man can express his beliefs in this country and yes he can. He has every bit as much right to that opinion as the Starbucks executive does. It doesn’t matter that they come down on opposite sides of the debate, but it does matter that they can come down on any issue in any way they choose.

I don’t understand why we as a society want our food/clothing/beverage/car etc. companies to proclaim one way or the other about anything but here we are. And because we’ve decided we need them to, are we really surprised at the outcome?

If Taco Bell decides to come out in favor of cow marriages it won’t make me stop eating there. I stopped eating there a long time ago because I don’t like their food! 

The second issue that will directly impact your children and their future is how to have a dialogue or discourse or debate or argument without yelling from opposite sides of the isle. What will our government look like if this is the new way to argue? Is the winner the one who first declares themselves offended? Is the winner the one who can yell the loudest over the throngs of angry protesters? No one wins in this new norm.

And who can we blame? I blame us. I blame our insatiable need for a 24-hour news cycle. I blame our desire to be entertained by talking heads on news affiliates and channels that should be informing but instead are inflaming. I blame our lust for celebrity and controversy and drama. I blame us.

When my daughter asks me what the hubbub is about, I will sit down and explain to her what happened and then have a conversation. I want her to ask hard questions and learn to think for herself. I want her to look to us for guidance and advice on how she should look at the world. I want her to understand that not everyone will think or believe as she does and that’s ok. It does not mean that she or the other person is any less of a human being and that she or the other person is still deserving of the same respect and honor, not because they agree, but because they are human!

If we don’t teach our children how to have a civil discourse with people that don’t agree we will become a nation even more divided than red states and blue states. We will become a people that lose that beautiful idea that we are free to hold to our beliefs and opinions and that the person on the other side is as well. If we lose that we lose ourselves!

I may not agree with you but I will fight to my death for your right to disagree with me and I would hope that you would do the same. If we can pass that on to our children and if we can start living that out then maybe, just maybe that will be our life raft out of this sea.

But then again, this is just my opinion. You may not agree with it but guess what? That’s ok!

Dale Black August 04, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Wow..well said.
Roger Phillips August 04, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Joe, it's not about free speech. He was able to express his opinions freely. If people disagree and decide not patronize his business that's free speech too. The real issue is that he donates money to organizations that actively seek to continue limiting the rights of consenting adults to marry the person of their choice. If it was just his personal opinion applied to his own life fine, but he's actively seeking to force others to apply his beliefs to their lives.
dwl9t2 August 04, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Oh, your going to continue eat at Chick-Fil-A because they have a right to free speech? Makes sense. Wait a second... who else has a right to free speech? Westboro Baptist Church, Neo-Nazis, Klu Klux Klan, Racists, Sexists, War-Mongers, on and on and on. I see. So if I eat at a restuarant where they donate money to the Westboro Baptist Church, I am free of moral responsibility because that compa ny has the right to its first amendment opinion. *BuzzzzERRRRR* WRONG! The first amendment is not some sort of commandment that forces you to "look past" other's free opinions in order to eat their food. Sometimes you can and should disagree with people, like when they are anti-gay bigots. The first amendment allows the free opinion to be and be against bigots. IT does not mean, "I should support someone no matter what they believe". It means they have the right to say what they believe. Chick-Fil-A supports and pays (your money if you eat there) anti-gay organizations that have caused lgbt teen suicides, supported gay genocide bills in Uganda, and are fundamentally discriminatory based on sexual orientation.
dwl9t2 August 04, 2012 at 01:34 PM
What has our country come to when the only thing necessary to purchase from an ethically immoral company is good taste or a good product.
Timm2theH August 04, 2012 at 03:45 PM
The scary thing is how much influence the media has on people. So much speculation being thrown around. In this world, people want to believe the worse in others. It is interesting! It makes you feel like a hero when you "stand your ground" over issues. By golly, let's fight over human rights while other humans in other places starve to death or are kidnapped to be sold in the sex slave industry. But wait a minute, that's not interesting enough. Why should I stand up for that? I won't look like a hero. I need to speak up to Chik-fil-a because they believe in the Bible. And, to add to it, I will allow CNN and USA Today (and every other media source) to fuel my rage with inconsistent lies. And then I will not take the time to research what they say because I'm afraid I will find out it is a lie and then I will look silly. The real issue is how much people despise people with Biblical world views. But, I have to be complete by stating that there are people with Biblical world views who despise those who don't share in it.
April Meury Reichardt August 04, 2012 at 06:31 PM
exactly!
April Meury Reichardt August 04, 2012 at 06:38 PM
right!!!! i keep asking people...what if he did the same thing but the issue was about pro-life verses pro-choice? wouldnt you want to know where your money was going and have the right to decide if you want to patronize them or not? he can have the opinion all he wants but when he takes profits from there to donate he has brought his ideas into the co.
Average Jane August 04, 2012 at 06:56 PM
agree. More profits for any company supporting unethical beliefs will be more money going into those candidates, PACs, that support unethical beliefs. I will boycott Chick-Fil-A, and Boy Scouts of America.
katie August 05, 2012 at 02:54 PM
If consenting adults want to have a civil union that is their business, but a marriage is defined in the bible by God as a holy matrimony between a man and a woman. HIS definition.
dwl9t2 August 06, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Newsflash: Christian god did not invent marriage and gay marriages occured before the idea of the Christian god was invented. No matter what He (bad grammar but I'll go along with it) thinks about marriage, He cannot enforce that opinion on non-religious Americans. Marriage is a fundamental right with benefits which should be afforded to consenting adults of any gender. To think otherwise is bigotry. You can allow others to be gay married while not doing it yourself. Civil unions are like Jim Crow's "seperate but equal." To be truely equal, the only truth is that lgbt individuals must recieve the right to marriage!!! #Marriage Freedom in America 2012!
Ray Antonacci August 06, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Joe, good article. I honestly don't know why the statements that were made by CFA's Pres are surprising. They close on Sundays.
rrash August 06, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Sometimes, those that scream 'tolerance' are the most in-tolerant of others who disagree with them. It IS about free speech and YOUR freedom to patronize businesses as you see fit.

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