I have been surprised by the breadth of reaction to the entire Chick-fil-A story. What I expected to be a minor news story in a limited, targeted media swath has turned into all out media war on both sides. In the middle of it all, the core message behind the boycott has been lost. Instead of a business’s donation to documented hate groups, which is the central issue, the message has been co-opted to be about free speech.
Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A can say whatever he wants. It is his right as a citizen and a businessman. We too much value the fundamental rights to put a muzzle on anyone who speaks out with an unpopular opinion. Without such speech, little that we take for granted today would exist.
However, Mr. Cathy’s donation of over $2 million to groups that have been identified as hate groups moves the conversation entirely out of the free speech realm. His support of groups that spread information that has been proven false with the expectation that if they scream it loud enough, often enough, it will become true, moves from speech to harmful action. Such libelous statements are not protected and enter the arena of behavior that can be challenged in a court of law. Those who naively assume that the reaction comes solely in response to what he said need to actively research the history of where Dan Cathy’s donations have gone. He can speak his beliefs as much and in whatever forum he chooses, but he does not have the right to act in a bigoted way that supports a direct harm to any person.
I started my personal boycott of Chick-fil-A long before any of the current media frenzy began. Friends of mine (a heterosexual husband and wife) went through the process to open their own franchise. After recounting the prayer meetings and challenges to their faith they had to endure to be considered for a franchise, I decided I could not support such a business. Though they are long-time church members, the level of questioning my friends faced approached that of an ordination panel for a minister. Such requirements of Chick-fil-A cross the boundary from Christian-based to theology-driven. Those who clamor for freedom of speech may wish to consider the nature of that theology before they rush out for the next chicken sandwich.
Some people will continue to support and some will boycott. Whatever stance they take should be based on a fully informed decision, not the reaction media frenzy or political ideal they imagine they support. The Twitter and Facebook feeds have been filled with too many uninformed statements by people who did not check what they had to say before saying it.
So, speak out, Mr. Cathy, all you wish. You lost my business years ago and as long as any profits from the company make their way to proven hate groups, you are doing nothing to win back my business.