Chick-fil-A and Hate Speech

Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A had an interview with Baptist Press where he confirmed that he is a Christian. And that his stores are closed on Sundays. And that he opposes marriage equality.

But this isn’t new.

Nevertheless, the internet got its panties in a wad over this.

And this is definitely not new.

Now I totally understand why my LGBT and LGBT-supporting friends are upset by some of Cathy’s statements. Being reduced to an issue rather than a person is demeaning and I can appreciate that it is frustrating to see your life and your relationship debated in the public square. I hate seeing my friends being turned into an academic or theological exercise.

Too often we hear things that are upsetting, like Cathy’s remarks, and we go a little crazy (I am the chief of sinners of this). We start using our own language that is inflammatory and extreme. We get into arguments with people who we like. We start saying that comments like, “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,” are hate speech.

When we do this, we do the conversation disservice. We cheapen that phrase “hate speech” by applying it to people who say things with which we disagree. Legitimate hurt gets lost in the midst of emotionally charged language.

We can acknowledge that there is a difference between hurtful words and hateful ones. We should acknowledge that.

But, what also gets lost in this is the actual hate speech that is going on, not with Dan Cathy, but with Chick-fil-A.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech and is protected under the first amendment.

One thing that Chick-fil-A has done is to donate corporate funds (not Dan Cathy’s private money that he earned from his job, but rather money from the corporation itself) to a hate group.

In 2010, Chick-fil-A made a small donation ($1000) to Family Research Council. Family Research Council (FRC) has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A hate group. Like the Ku Klux Klan or White Aryan Resistance. 

The folks at FRC engage in hate speech. For example:

  • “One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.”
    -1999 FRC pamphlet, Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex with Boys
  • “Now, back in the 80′s and early 90′s I worked with the state department in anti-terrorism and we trained about fifty different countries in defending against terrorism, and it’s, at its base, what terrorism is, it’s a strike against the general populace simply to spread fear and intimidation so that they can disrupt and destabilize the system of government. That’s what the homosexuals are doing here to the legal system.” -FRC President Tony Perkins, Washington Watch, April 2011
  • “While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”
    -FRC President Tony Perkins, FRC website, 2010

They lie about the LGBT community and they spread hatred. Not mere disagreement, but actual hatred.

This is a group that Chick-fil-A, the company, not Dan Cathy the person, has supported financially.

It is a small contribution. I understand that. In the grand scheme of things, $1000 is a puny amount. But if they donated $1000 to Westboro Baptist Church, I would be upset. If they donated $1000 to the KKK or the Aryan Nations, I would be upset. The amount is not the issue, it’s to whom the donation was made.

Money is speech and Chick-fil-A used money to promote hate.

This is why I, and many others, choose not to patronize Chick-fil-A. Not because we disagree with the owner’s views on marriage equality. Not because we believe that denying marriage rights means that you hate those to whom you are denying those rights. Not because we believe that Dan Cathy’s statements constitute hate speech.

But because Chick-fil-A has funded a hate group.

When people dismiss folks who have chosen to boycott Chick-fil-A for this reason, they perpetuate the idea that genuine hatred is acceptable when dealing with the LGBT community. Not because they actually believe that hatred is okay, but because they either mock those who acknowledge it, or they turn a blind eye to the hatred itself.

And this, like choosing to ascribe inflammatory language to mere disagreement, is hurtful. It causes pain and cuts off dialogue.

But I believe we can have a fruitful discussion.

I don’t think we’re going to agree. Not about whether or not to eat at Chick-fil-A. Not about marriage equality.

But we can ask for forgiveness when our words cause pain. We can acknowledge where there are genuine concerns. We can acknowledge ways to move forward together to stop actual damage.

We can move beyond hate speech into something that is pleasing.

Let my words and my thoughts
    be pleasing to you, Lord,
    because you are my mighty rock
    and my protector.

Psalm 19:14


How do you help keep perspective in the midst of hurt?

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