Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

There Is No Chick-Fil-A "Controversy"; It's Simple

rant.pngLook, let's keep this short and sweet:

  1. Chick-Fil-A is a privately held company.  This means that the owner gets to exert personal control.
  2. The owner publicly, in an interview, expressed a view that is contrary to resolutions and laws in several (and growing) locations in the country, and abhorrent to many people in the country.
  3. Of course the owner can say anything he wants to.  He can also not say anything.
  4. "It's a religious belief" is a bullcrap rationalization for anything you do to other people.
  5. If you publicly state your personal beliefs, your public persona and public business will have to deal with the consequences of those statements.  Free speech does not equal freedom from consequences.
  6. If you publicly indicate that your privately held company might not comply with the laws and resolutions of a locality, that locality is well within its rights to demand assurances that your company will comply with the law, and resist your company's entry into that locality.

So let's recap:
  • You get to say whatever you want in this country.
  • You have to deal with the consequences of what you say.
  • When you are the public head of a company, your company has to deal with what you say.
  • This can (and probably will) include formal and informal boycotts and protests.
  • This may include losing money, contracts, etc.

Deal with it, or don't make a public statement in an interviewNot.  Hard.

So yeah, I'm not buying Chick-Fil-A.  I haven't for quite some time, except when I literally had no choice.  Same reason I don't donate a dime to the Salvation Army.  If I have a chance to have a say in it, I'll recommend against either organization.  You have the right to disagree completely.  But there really isn't much to argue about other than the policy itself... which makes up about 1% of the actual "discussion" on both sides.

Oh, and by the way, commentary that uses Sodom and Gomorrah as a justification for opposing gay marriage might want to remember that Lot offered his two virgin daughters up for gang rape, and those two angels didn't think that was a problem.

I'll let the lack of Christian commentary on that part of Genesis 19 speak for itself.


Ken Marable said...

I 83% agree with you (if I did my math right). Personally, if I ever had gone toa Chick-fil-a or had one near me, I would avoid it no over this.

However, unless I missed something, I think #6 does not directly apply here. Boycot the chain, sure, more power to you. But when Chicago and Boston (if I recall) talked about officially making thuings difficult with Chick-fil-a, it wasn't a matter of making sure they abide by the law. Their clearly stated view is basically, "They don't share our values, so we are going to make life difficult for them." Threats of licensing for new restaurants being overly scrutinized and delayed, etc. - and not over possible legal violations (since Chick-fil-a isn't in the business of marrying people anyway), but over value differences.

The best analogy I read was imagine a business run in the South by a liberal who is vocal about supporting gay marriage. After mentioning in an interview how much they personally support gay marriage, suddenly local governments starting running them out of town and preventing them opening new locations for no other reason than "we disagree with you."

It is 100% wrong. Free speech is free speech regardless of what the opinion is of the majority of people. Being held accountable by individuals deciding to boycott? Great! Other businesses deciding to not be associated? Thank you, Jim Henson Company for still being awesome. Government shutting you down or "making things really difficult"? No, absolutely not.

Now, if I missed something in the interview where the CEO said he would violate laws and Chicago and Boston were worried about that, then I stand corrected. However, everything I have seen looks far more like government threatening to strong arm a business over the unpopular opinion of its CEO. That is a blatant free speech violation, and even if I agree that the CEOs views are wrong and thankfully becoming outdated, government punishment of that opinion is 100% wrong.

Even worse, it distracts from the real focus of the debate by giving the other side a valid claim of hypopcrisy on our parts if we support governments punishing a business not over violations but free speech. Personally, I see that as more damaging to the cause than what some overly conservative CEO I have never heard of says in a Christian magazine.

Ken Marable said...

(Yikes, should have proofed that better. My apologies. I was typing on my iPad and between fat-fingers and autocorrect, things got a little garblbed, but hopefully understandable.

Oh, and thank you for the great blog - this post and all the previous ones. Long time reader, first time poster and all that. Like I said, I 83% agree with you, I just worry about *government* punishing someone over free speech rather than actual violations. I also have no problem and sincerely hope free market forces can put some hurt on the company even though I realize that might harm ordinary employees more than some CEO, but we need to make a stand - just do it as private citizens and consumers, not as governmental agents.)

Steven Saus said...

Definitely understandable.

MA, at least, recognizes marriage equality, so that kind of discrimination would be illegal in Boston. Not sure about Chicago (and getting ready for work, so I don't have a chance to check).

Doug said...

The owners statements were his opinion not company policy.

Steven Saus said...

You're correct. And when it's a privately held company, the owner's opinion counts for a lot when it comes to policy. I'm sure that my opinions have lost me clients and probably gained me some as well; that's the cost of being in business and broadcasting your opinion out there.

Ken Marable said...

You have to be careful not to gloss over some extremely important distinctions:

1a) People speaking out against Chick-Fil-A, even people in office? Ok.

1b) People not spending money at Chick-Fil-A because of this? Ok.

1c) Government officials banning Chick-Fil-A? Absolutely not. Even the ACLU has come out in support of the CEO against the threatened bans.

2a) Speaking out against something, even an existing law? Ok. In fact, being able to speak out against laws that you think are wrong is one of the main major reasons for having a First Amendment.

2b) A CEO of a private company saying he opposes same-sex marriage, even if he outright says the laws are wrong, and a majority of people thinks that's a stupid opinion to have? Ok (he's wrong but legally ok).

2c) Having discriminatory practices in place (officially or even unofficially)? Not ok. However, no one has claimed that Chick-Fil-A actually engages in discriminatory practices. Only their CEO is wrong-headed and intolerant. That is a HUGE distinction.

So, sure you can lose clients and sales over your views. You could even have the Mayor of Chicago call you a jerk and say you don't belong in the city. But once it crosses over to "and you have such jerky views that I'm going to use my zoning authority to prevent you from being in my city", it has crossed the line into a First Amendment violation regardless of whether your views oppose existing laws, regardless of whether you are public or privately owned. It is wrong.

I found these expressed and informed my ideas quite well:


So, I suppose it is simple:

1) You can say dumb things.
2) Your business can be called out and lose sales over that.
3) But the government cannot use it's authority against you unless you actually violate the law.