Chicken: Free Speech or Justice?

I didn’t mean to step into the Chick-fil-A brouhaha but I did. The following is a comment I posted at Rebecca Hamilton’s blog, in response to her post, It’s Eat a Chicken Sandwich for Freedom of Speech Day ! « Public Catholic.

Image from the blog of New Columbia Heights.


I’ve been thinking about this post off and on over the last several days. Perhaps, it’s because I keep getting notices that someone else has commented. More likely it’s because of my discomfort with my last comment. I think it was incomplete.

This is indeed a free speech issue when mayors and others in elected or bureaucratic positions seek to keep a legitimate business from operating in their city or other jurisdiction. People also need to learn to talk with one another civilly. We do too much screaming and not enough listening.

The owner of any business has the right to express his own religious and political views. Whether he was asked or not is irrelevant; he chose to state them. At this point those with differing perspectives have as much right to express their views as Dan Cathy. He may spend his money how he chooses but as an outspoken business leader he can expect some to choose not to support his business. They may also exercise their constitutional rights to protest in a variety of ways.

This becomes a justice issue when he expresses opinions and spends $5 million on oppression of a minority. Some of that money has been spent on a program to “fix” people who are GLBTQ. That is, he denies that their sexuality is God-given. It is a gift just as my heterosexuality is a gift from God.

Mr. Cathy goes further, though, and seeks to deny the rights of those with whom he diminishes. He tells my child, my friends, and my human kin that because of their sexuality — which hurts no one — that they are not worthy of the right of visitation as family when their beloved is hospitalized. He tells them that they must pay higher taxes because they are not legally married and so cannot file jointly. He tells them that their loving relationship is less valuable than someone who is married to someone of another gender. He implies that they are less than the beloved children of God.

I am saddened by the display of Christians lining up to eat chicken in the name of free speech that hurts so many of our human kindred. Though, I fully support their right to do so it is hard for me to comprehend why this issue which gets marginal treatment (even if interpreted as condemnation) in the Bible, rallies so many to eat chicken. The biblical witness is chock-full of the importance of hospitality and welcome of the other. Jesus is persistent in his call for us to reach out to the poor, the marginalized, and the despised of society.

The body of Christ is not about hatred. It is about love. My friends and family who are GLBTQ do not feel loved by the Christians who went out to eat chicken.

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