I’ve been following the Chick-fil-A controversy this week, and wondering what I wanted to write about it. I feel as if I can’t determine what my real ‘story” is in relation to it.Most of what we see out there is a mixture of righteous indignation which is completely deserved, and bullying, which I’m not so sure about. That’s where I’ll get myself into trouble, so pretend I didn’t just say that last part.
But then a post to a friend’s Facebook brought a new angle on this for me. The linked article claims that the media made up the whole controversy, because Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A never condemned gay marriage. Interesting to be sure! The media totally manufactured this controversy? Truly, Cathy didn’t say, quote-unquote, “I condemn gay marriage.” But he did say, quote- unquote, “We support traditional marriage,” and traditional marriage is one man and one woman. Is condemn too strong a word? I suppose if you are Chick-fil-A and trying to do any amount of damage control that you can, you might nitpick over the words. But it has been clear for some time that anti- marriage equality groups have drawn a line in the sand, and if you can find one person who both supports one man and one woman and supports same-sex marriage, then I’ll stop blogging all together.
But that isn’t what I really want to write about today. I want to think about the distinction between a religious person and a religiously run business. Seems to me people, or I should say individuals are all entitled to their own opinions and are free to make choices about their actions based on whatever belief system they choose. That is paramount within the First Amendment. And, I have, against much criticism, believed that a business should not be held hostage based upon the business owner’s personal beliefs. For example. If there is a cupcake bakery owned by two gay men, it would be horrific if people said, “don’t shop there, because the owners are gay. We would call that discrimination. And if the gay men treated all the customers fairly and with respect, we would see them as good. Similarly if a business was run by a very conservative Christian, and we told people not to shop there because of the person’s personal beliefs, it would be discrimination. And as log as the shop treated everyone fairly, there really could be no complaint.
But in the case of Chick-fil-A, we don’t have a business and an owner with his personal beliefs. We have a CEO who claims that the business is run, based on Biblical teachings, and that changes everything. That means the there is no separation between one’s prsona beliefs and how the business functions.
Now, it is in some ways, I’m fine with a business run based on Biblical teachings. Just as it is fine that a business is run based on some financial theory or ideas.People can either support the business or not support it. For example, I don’t by BP gasoline because I don’t like their business practices. But what does it really mean for the business to follow Biblical teachings: how does that play out in practical terms? For me that is the big question, and when a CEO is willing to clarify so concretely that stance as being one that excludes ful civil rights for all, what is the appropriate response?
In so many ways anyone can use the Bible to support any idea or position. The Bible was used to both support slavery and racism, and to support abolishing slavery and ending racist actions. Some see it it, a Peace-loving anti-war manifesto, while others use it to justify war and killing. Still it isn’t the positions in and of themselves which becomes the big deal, but rather if the support for them is rooted and justified entirely based on Biblical teachings,. In this case they are against same-sex marriage (or as Mr. Cathy would put it) for Traditional Marriage. No civil rationale can be found to deny gay and lesbians the right to civil marriage. The only rationale that exists, is a very few Biblical passages. In a Democracy that protects both Freedom of Religion and FReedom from Religion, this use of the Bible is problematic.
Look at your Holy Book, and you will find lots of stories about God’s chosen going to war, overpowering and then, taking as slaves the defeated people. Imagine a business that decided this Biblical teaching was a reasonable way to get cheap labor. OK, that may be pushing it, but I think my point is clear.
Possibly the most troubling part for me in terms of Mr Cathy and his Biblical teachings business practices, is the hypocrisy of it. The Bible also prohibits eating pork and yet he serves pork in his restaurants. Why is that? How is it that we get to pick and choose among Biblical teachings?