Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chick-fil-A's First Amendment rights have not been attacked

Agreeing with the company president's comments isn't the same as "defending freedoms"

The recent controversy regarding Chick-fil-A, a fast-food restaurant whose president, Dan Cathy, recently made remarks regarding his views on same-sex marriage, is intriguing to say the least. It invites a multitude of views on the subject, and creates a debate that frankly needs to be hashed out in the open.

Cathy's words, which started the controversy to begin with, were the following:
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,' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.
Since the interview in which he made that statement, members of the LGBT community (and their straight allies) have launched a nationwide boycott against the company. Even the Muppets got involved, asking that toys depicting their characters in kids meals be removed from the menu.

Conservatives came to rally for the restaurant, with former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee both encouraging supporters of so-called "traditional" marriage to flood Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country yesterday.

Palin had some choice words about those who supported the boycott:
Calling for the boycott is a real -- has a chilling effect on our 1st Amendment rights. And the owner of the Chick-fil-A business had merely voiced his personal opinion about supporting traditional definition of marriage, one boy, one girl, falling in love, getting married. And having voiced support for kind of that cornerstone of all civilization and all religions since the beginning of time, he then basically getting crucified.

I'm speaking up for him and his 1st Amendment rights...
Emphases added.

Besides comparing the critical reaction to Cathy's views to a "crucifixion" (no doubt a purposeful use of the word, but one that also belittles the death of Christ), Palin makes an errant remark when she describes herself as defending the Chick-fil-A president's views.

A defense of the First Amendment only occurs when there is restraint of a person's speech rights, religious beliefs, press rights, or assembly. Cathy's views on same-sex marriage aren't being restrained, nor is anyone saying he has no right to express them. Instead, people are exercising their OWN free speech in criticizing Cathy's stance. People have the right to boycott based on political rationale, and any restraint on that WOULD classify as a freedom being denied.

Organizing against a corporation based on political topics is as old as America itself -- the original Boston Tea Party (not the right-wing movement) was a response to undue taxes without representation, a political stance the founders took by throwing tea from the East India Tea Company into Boston Harbor. And no one would say that the Montgomery bus boycott led by Martin Luther King was an attack on free speech -- it was a response to a long-standing discriminatory practice by the Montgomery public transit system.

So, no, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and everyone else out there who agrees with Chick-fil-A's same-sex marriage views -- you're not "defending" First Amendment rights when you bite into some chicken. You're supporting the views of the Chick-fil-A restaurant and its president. Which is fine -- it's within YOUR rights to do so. But it's also the rights of gay and lesbian couples, as well as their supporters, to launch a boycott against the company. Criticize it all you want -- it's still a right they retain.

Unfortunately, the issue goes beyond the First Amendment. And if you're comfortable supporting a restaurant that donates to an organization who urged Congress to not take a stance against killing gays in Uganda, then that's your prerogative. As for me, I'll buy my chicken where I usually get it -- the supermarket.

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