Culture War Erupts Over Chick-fil-A


This week the culture wars certainly burst into prominence – didn’t they? – with the Chick-fil-A appreciation day on Wednesday; thousands of people flocking to Chick-fil-A in support of Dan Cathy and his right to freedom of speech as well as, I think, Chick-fil-A’s politically incorrect stance against same-sex marriage. The opposition was vehement in its denunciations. The mayors of cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. all condemned Dan Cathy’s remarks against same-sex marriage. Rahm Emanuel in Chicago had said, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment having a Chick-fil-A in Chicago. It would be empty.” Despite the concerns over violating First Amendment rights of the Chick-fil-A people he stood by his comments even afterward. He said, “The simple reason is that when it comes to values there is a policy as it relates to gay marriage. The values of our city are ones that welcome and recognize that and I will continue to fight for that.” Other mayors also said that they didn’t want to have Chick-fil-A represented in their cities. The mayor of San Francisco, for example, said “very disappointed that Chick-fil-A doesn’t share San Francisco’s values and a strong commitment to equality for everyone.” I thought this mayor had perhaps a better claim to be speaking for the values of his city than Rahm Emanuel having lived in the Chicago area myself. The mayor said, “The closest Chick-fil-A to San Francisco is 40 miles away and I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.”

Well, there were a number of issues, I think, that were raised by this brouhaha. First is of course is the issue of same-sex marriage. Here we should not be misled by the rhetoric of those who are espousing same-sex marriage. This is not, as Rahm Emanuel said, about gay marriage. Nor is it about marriage equality. Those are just rhetorical ploys to make this appear more acceptable. Why is that the case? Well, as I have explained before, gay marriage would be clearly unconstitutional because it would be singling out a certain sector of the population and making marriage laws specific to them. The marriage laws have to be blind to one’s sexual orientation. You cannot say that only gay people are allowed to have same-sex marriage. That would discriminate, for example, against two heterosexual men who wanted to be married to each other. So the issue is not gay marriage. It is same-sex marriage. The law has to treat all people equally. And the fact is that that is exactly what the law does. We have marriage equality. Any man, any woman can get married regardless of their sexual orientation. The law is blind to your sexual orientation. So we have marriage equality today. What we do not have is same-sex marriage. That is because, I think, marriage has a nature or an essence to it between a man and a woman. It is not just a socially constructed reality.

Sometimes the proponents of same-sex marriage will attempt to appeal to interracial marriage in order to justify their position. They point out that some Southern states used to have laws prohibiting interracial marriage and that was found to be unconstitutional. But in fact the example of interracial marriage actually supports those who are holding to traditional marriage as being between a man and a woman. Why is that? Because the analogy to one’s race would be your sexual orientation. Just as the law must be blind to your race and permit any man and woman to marry each other regardless of their race, the law must be blind with respect to the sexual orientation of a man and a woman and allow them to marry whether they are homosexual, heterosexual, or whatever.[1] So, in fact, the example of interracial marriage really supports the traditional position. It is saying that the law cannot discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation just as it can’t discriminate against them based upon their race. The law has to be blind with regard to this. That is the way the law in fact is. Anybody can marry heterosexually whether you are sexually oriented toward same-sex or opposition-sex partners.

The deeper issue, in addition to the same-sex marriage issue, is the free speech issue. Here these mayors were roundly condemned by newspaper editorialists in their own cities for attempting to abridge the freedom of speech of the owners of Chick-fil-A. To try to say that you cannot operate a restaurant in our city because of your personal views about marriage is clearly a violation of their free speech. So this was, I think, quite properly roundly condemned. It would be absurd to think that because you hold views that are deemed politically incorrect by certain people in power that therefore you cannot operate a business in that city. So it is really shocking how far out of the mainstream these people had actually gotten. I must say I don’t think Rahm Emanuel speaks for Chicago when he talks about Chicago values. Where did he get the right to tell us what Chicago values are? Chicago is a great city with a wide diversity of viewpoints and I think he is clearly just pandering to a certain part of the electorate that supports his viewpoints.

The third issue, though, that is raised here that needs to be highlighted is the intolerance of these people on the left. They are hurling accusations of hate and bigotry at Chick-fil-A at the same time that they are saying that companies who have owners that believe in traditional marriage shouldn’t be allowed to open a restaurant in their city. This is the height of intolerance and bigotry. I find it incredible that people who supposedly espouse the values of tolerance should themselves be so narrow minded against other people. Greg Koukl has made a very nice distinction in this regard. Greg says that we should discriminate against ideas, not against people. You can discriminate against a person’s idea by rejecting that idea saying, “I think that idea is false.” But you don’t discriminate against the person who holds to that idea. You defend his right to hold to his false belief. But so often people on the left discriminate against the people who hold the idea rather than against the idea themselves. Of course, these mayors are free to disagree with Dan Cathy about same-sex marriage but they go one step further than that and they discriminate against the person who holds to the traditional view. So this was really a very egregious and blatant example of the intolerance of people on the left and I am very glad that this has been recognized in the media today and by so many American people who came out in support of Chick-fil-A and their freedom of speech as well as the right to traditional marriage.[2]

[1] 5:03

[2] Total Running Time: 9:04 (Copyright © 2012 William Lane Craig)