Last week, I walked by an Atlanta Chick-fil-A crowded with customers. While some may have been regulars, others were likely there to show support for the socially conservative views of the restaurant chain’s founder. Good for them!
Though I vigorously disagree with Truett Cathy and his son Dan, who have contributed heavily to anti-gay causes, they have every right to their beliefs and to back them with their money. If they want to entangle their privately held company in controversy, they go forth in a great American tradition of free speech and free association.
For my part, I hold with the other side — those social progressives who have chosen not to do business with Chick-fil-A. The boycott, too, has a long and honorable place in the American civic tradition.
The Chick-fil-A showdown was sparked earlier this summer when Dan, the company’s president and chief operating officer, was interviewed on a conservative radio talk show. His comments, though inflammatory, were not unusual among ultra-conservative Christians, who confuse homophobia with piety.
“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about,” he said.
The Cathys have long contributed to organizations that oppose full equality for gays and lesbians, including same-sex marriage, and this isn’t the first time their activism has brought sharp criticism. Liberal college students have been fighting campus Chick-fil-A locations for the past year.
But this time, the reproach from gay-rights supporters caught the attention of former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a conservative Christian himself. Now a radio talk show host, he declared last Wednesday “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” The battle was joined.