02 August 2012

A game of chicken

Yesterday was "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" across the country, a mass descent upon the fast-food chain, known to me previously only for sponsoring a college football bowl game, to show solidarity with the chain's president, Dan Cathy, after politicians in some cities had threatened to deny permits for new franchises. Cathy is a homophobe on the subject of marriage. While there are no indications that his chain discriminates against homosexuals in hiring or service, Cathy is on record as opposing gay marriage and has donated money to political groups lobbying or advertising against the concept. A recent reiteration of his views provoked the threatened sanctions which in turn provoked the Appreciation Day. I don't approve of banning businesses from communities because of the political opinions of their bosses, as opposed to their hiring practices, so I have to say that some of the comments I've heard from the mayors of Chicago and Boston, and politicians elsewhere, are overboard and out of bounds. But before the usual enemies of "political correctness" welcome me to their defense of Chick-Fil-A, I wonder how consistent they are about defending entrepreneurs with controversial opinions. From my perspective, refusing to let a restaurant chain do business in your city because its boss supports a form of bigotry is not much different from, let's say, protesting against the purchase of property for use as a cultural center by Muslims. Such protests have been made, of course, on the ground of insensitivity and the suspicion of terrorist sympathies, but on those occasions it has most likely been the people most likely to defend Chick-Fil-A who would not defend Islamic cultural centers. It's probably also true that some people who would have defended unto death the right of Muslims to open a cultural center in a "sensitive" area are also eager to drive or keep Chick-Fil-A out of their communities. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone at either the chickenmongers or the culturemongers. Let those who claim to defend freedom remember that they aren't free to defend it only when they feel like it.

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