Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? — Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVIII, 1782. ME 2:227

Politics, Culture, and Chicken

August 7, 2012   ·   By   ·   0 Comments

Chick-Fil-A chicken strips (Photo credit: Gregg O'Connell)

Chick-Fil-A chicken strips (Photo credit: Gregg O’Connell)

Dan Cathy, President of Chick-fil-A, probably did not expect to be at the center of the storm of the gay marriage debate, but his company proved an unexpected financial beneficiary of the controversy.

Cathy, President of the Atlanta-based restaurant chain, is a devout Christian and tries to operate his company based on Biblical principles.  Chick-fil-A is one of the few fast food chains that remains closed on Sunday in honor of the Sabbath.  Because of Cathy’s public stance in favor of traditional marriage and his foundation’s support of some pro-family groups, gay rights activists urged hungry consumers to boycott the business and punish Cathy in the pocket book for his religious convictions.

The boycott boomeranged on the gay community.  Mike Huckabee, Fox News talk show host, encouraged people to show their appreciation for Cathy and his company by frequenting his franchise last Wednesday.  The response was overwhelming and Chick-fil-A boasted record sales because of it.

Apparently, there are a lot of hungry people who like traditional marriage and their chicken too.

In retaliation, the gay community promoted a “kiss in”, encouraging same-sex couples to kiss one another at a Chick-fil-A restaurant.  Perhaps, they hoped their conduct would be deemed so repellent it would scare away Chick-fil-A customers and the company would feel the pinch of their protest.  It didn’t work.

I am all for people voting with their dollars.  I have no problem with people declining to engage in commerce with those with whom they disagree over political or cultural issues.  I have participated in more than one economic boycott myself over abortion.  Americans are free to associate with whom they choose.  It’s one of our cherished rights protected under the First Amendment.  That’s why the comments of the mayors of Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco in reference to this controversy were so troubling.

These mayors made it clear that Chick-fil-A is not welcome in their communities and should not try to do business there.  Boston Mayor Thomas Menino proclaimed that “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston,” and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.”  But that’s just it—it’s none of Mayor Emanuel’s public business what the founder of Chick-fil-A values.  When considering new business applicants, the government has no place in dissecting the religious beliefs of a company’s leaders.  When public officials act to impede commerce based on the beliefs or speech of a free people they run afoul of the First Amendment.  So much for the tolerance of the Left.

It’s hard to see how the agenda of the gay community was advanced by their Chick-fil-A campaign.  They made a political and cultural calculation that backfired—big time.  Their actions were seen as petty by the thousands of Americans so irked that they stood in long lines to buy chicken sandwiches.

Proponents of same-sex marriage also were not helped by the recent viral video originally posted to YouTube by Adam Smith, former CFO of Tuscon medical manufacturer Vante, who took it upon himself to yell at a polite Chick-fil-A employee, asking her how she could sleep at night working for such a “horrible corporation.”  He was so proud of his bullying that he posted the video online.  His pride must be hurting now.  After the video went viral, he was fired.

The big winners in this imbroglio were Chick-fil-A, traditional marriage, and Mike Huckabee.  Having seen the public reaction, President Obama may want to rethink his support for gay marriage.  The support for traditional marriage appears to be greater than he anticipated.  Acceptance of gay marriage is not the inevitable future we see portrayed so often in the media today.

Given the opportunity to vote, Americans again and again define marriage as between one man and one woman.  Thirty-nine states have banned same-sex marriage.  In the six states in which it is legal, it was established through the legislature or court justices—not by popular vote.

And Mitt Romney may want to add Mike Huckabee to his short list of potential VP running mates.  It’s hard to imagine that any of the VP wannabes reported to be on his short list could generate the actions and enthusiasm that Huckabee did in promoting Chick-fil-A.

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Attorney Ken Connor is the Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC, and the former President of the Family Research Council. He served as counsel to Governor Jeb Bush in Bush v. Schiavo during the Terri Schiavo case, and is co-author of "Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Civic Duty."
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