Last month, the CEO of the fried chicken chain known as Chick-fil-A came out against marriage equality. Dan Cathy speaking on a radio show said “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”
Cathy later defended his comments saying he was “guilty as charged” of being “supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit”.
Cathy’s public comments are a little surprising and very rare for a business leader given that remarks such as these are first and foremost bad for business in the long run. No CEO goes out with the intention of alienating a large portion of their customer base, so while other business owners might be defending Cathy’s freedom of speech, they are not sharing in his religious opinions.
Free speech aside, the LGBT community has not been protesting Cathy’s words, but his company’s actions. Chick-fil-A has given at least $5 million to anti-gay organizations, including known hate groups and proponents of ex-gay therapy. Chick-fil-A also has a zero rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which signifies that the company doesn’t offer any protection for its LGBT employees.
Conservatives will continue to approach this matter as a first amendment issue, they have to, it’s the only way to defend a religious view point that is intolerant of others. Former presidential candidate and Fox News host Mike Huckabee had enough of what he called the “vicious hate speech and intolerant bigotry” aimed at the restaurant and called for a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” (Apparently the denouncement of intolerance is equal to vicious hate speech and is intolerant itself).
Nevertheless on August 1st conservatives heard the Huckabee call and came out in record numbers to eat fried chicken, exercise their first amendment rights and condemn the LGBT community. Gay couples countered a few days later with a same-sex “kiss in”.
If there are any victims in this war of words and ideology it would have to be the employees of Chick-fil-A, especially the gay employees who are forced to take customer criticism from both sides while remaining neutral. A gay employee in Colorado said that Cathy’s comments weren’t as bad as “constantly having people come up to you and say, ‘I support your company, because your company hates the gays,’”
Another gay employee from Atlanta has been hearing it from both sides as one man said “I’m so glad you don’t support the queers, I can eat in peace” the employee also said he got yelled at for being a god-loving, conservative, homophobic Christian. As you can see, the only thing the CEO’s commentary managed to do is spread the hate.
Mr. Cathy’s public stance against gay marriage has managed to combine business with religion and politics, three different institutions that should remain separate at all times. Business mixed with politics can lead to fascism, religion mixed with politics can lead to fundamentalism and unless you’re a preacher; business doesn’t mix with religion at all. I won’t remind anyone of what all three can lead to.
Hopefully other business leaders will continue to reject Dan Cathy’s example and stick to selling products rather than dogma. The last thing we need is for the business community to divide the nation on religious and ideological lines, we get enough of that from our politicians.