Equality Matters has all of the facts. Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy created the charitable wing of his chicken enterprise, the WinShape Foundation, in 1984. The lion’s share of WinShape’s money has come from Chick-fil-A — over $8 million in 2010 alone, reports Equality Matters. That same year, they doled out a generous portion to anti-gay groups:
WinShape Gave Over $1.9 Million To Anti-Gay Groups. In 2010, WinShape donated $1,974,380 to a number of anti-gay groups:
- Marriage & Family Foundation: $1,188,380
- Fellowship Of Christian Athletes: $480,000
- National Christian Foundation: $247,500
- New Mexico Christian Foundation: $54,000
- Exodus International: $1,000
- Family Research Council: $1,000
- Georgia Family Council: $2,500
(Equality Matters, July 2, 2012, linked above.)
So documented proof exists that for at least the last two years, Chick-fil-A has actively contributed to groups antithetical to the lives of LGBT folks. Indeed, the Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Family Research Council as an anti-gay hate group.
Given this strong background, we should not be at all surprised that S. Truett’s son Dan, who took over in 2001, has continued the family tradition of using his company’s money to denigrate LGBT people. The difference is that Dan is also more than happy to use his position as the CEO of a major food corporation as a bully pulpit, with emphasis on the word bully. During the ruckus, many have called for boycotts of Chick-fil-A. The Jim Henson Company severed its ties to the chicken outfit. The mayor of Boston said that Chick-fil-A should stay away and the mayor of Chicago said that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values.” And, of course, defenders have come out, too, some citing their affinity with Mr. Cathy’s strong Christian beliefs, others citing freedom of speech concerns. Let’s look at the freedom of speech angle first.
With freedoms come responsibilities. As the bromide contends, one does not have the freedom to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Such irresponsibility could get people hurt or even killed, which is why such “speech” is more often prosecuted than protected. Have people been hurt by Dan Cathy’s statements? Physically, perhaps not — and one hopes it stays that way — but psychologically, that’s another story:
Andrew, a gay 24-year-old who has been working at the northern Alabama Chick-fil-A since January, sat in his car smoking a cigarette and watching the crowd during a break earlier Wednesday.
“I call it hater appreciation day,” said Andrew, who asked that his last name be withheld out of fear he’d be fired. “It’s very, very depressing.”
Huffington Post – Chick-fil-A Anti-Gay Controversy: Gay Employees Speak Out
Other LGBT employees share similar feelings and experiences, including a gay 18 year old employee who has had to endure hearing customers supportive of the anti-equality stance express their appreciation of his company using anti-gay language.
In the face of the evidence above, nobody can argue that Mr. Cathy’s statements are not hurtful. Indeed, it’s the same hateful bullshit we’ve heard time and again leveled against LGBT folks, sometimes with deadly consequences. Mr. Cathy may well have the right to say what he said, and he may well have the right to donate money to groups whose sole existence is to demean a segment of the population. But he and all of his supporters have to acknowledge and own up to the consequences of their behavior. To live in denial of the consequences is to allow them to happen behind closed doors while no one watches, hoping that they’ll just go away. That’s cowardice.
But let’s look at this business from another angle. Let’s play with Mr. Cathy’s words a bit. In part of his diatribe, he stated:
“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 operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized.
Baptist Press, July 16, 2012
Just for kicks, let’s insert the word “white” in front of family in the above quote. Read it aloud like that, and see how it sounds. Pretty scary/creepy, isn’t it? Obviously, Mr. Cathy didn’t say it like that, but what if he had? What if, for whatever reason, he felt the need to express such a belief? What do you think the reaction would have been?
Another bromide, perhaps, but I use it to make a point. I am not accusing Mr. Cathy of being a racist. I am saying, however, that such a naked expression of racism would never be tolerated by society. So should it be for anti-gay bigotry. LGBT folks are part of the “last frontier,” the last population which can still be demeaned, debased, and discriminated against without total, uniform condemnation. This isn’t to say that racism is dead, far from it. But naked racism, such as I tried to illustrate above, has become a pariah. A few brave souls continue to espouse and support it, but most folks run from it in short order.
We aren’t there yet with anti-gay bigotry. When Mike Huckabee called for a Chick-fil-A appreciation day, record numbers flocked to the store, some declaring that they would do so for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As noted in the HuffPost article cited above, some told Chick-fil-A employees that they are proud to support a company that hates the gays. That’s not OK. It is not OK for anyone to incite, fuel, and encourage bigotry and hatred against any population, whoever they are. That’s not what we should be about, and that’s not what freedom of speech should protect.
It’s time for folks to grow up and stop yelling “Fire!” just because they feel like it or just because they say their religion says it’s OK. It’s not OK. It’s time for folks to stop masking their bigotries behind malleable religious texts, which can be used to defend anything, and to face up to the consequences of such actions.
And once they do, then they need to just stop it.
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.