Chick-Fil-A, Free Speech, and Gay Rights

Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-Fil-A, is against gay marriage.  His worldview is one that is shaped by religious, and more specifically Biblical, ideology.  He recently made public, his views on the matter, saying:
 
“I think we are 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,’” Cathy said. “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.”
 
He went on to state that he believes in the Biblical definition of the family, and that his company is a family-owned and led business that supports this belief.
 
There are two issues that must be dealt with:  1.) Cathy’s First Amendment right to free speech.  2.) The use of religion to mask prejudice.  I’ll deal with these subjects independently.
 
1.)  I stated recently on Facebook that while I do not agree with Cathy’s repellent bigotry, I do believe in his right to express his opinion.  Free speech is not always easy to defend.  A society’s true test of its resolve to defend it, is measured by how it protects the views we find offensive.  It’s easy to stand up for ideas we feel morally comfortable endorsing.  It’s much harder to defend that same right, when the views being expressed are reprehensible to us.  And while on the surface, it might appear that it’s more important to take institutional action against misguided, archaic, and damaging ideas and thoughts, it’s incredibly important that we comprehend and consider, the issue in a broader context. 
 
What we have every right to do, and what I believe we should do- if we take issue with Cathy’s comments- is exercise our right to free speech, to combat the ideas he is positing.  It’s important that this issue is seen as a moral one, and is not viewed through the distorted lens of politics, by way of religion.  Making that mistake, allows for opportunists that revel in the divisive nature of partisan platforms, to continue to commandeer what should be seen as a universal struggle for human rights.  It’s life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, not for some.  And while the fact that this hasn’t been the case since the thought was first set to paper is not lost on me, the purity within the sentiment is something we should all endeavor to protect. 
 
What cannot be tolerated, and what would only lead to dangerous precedents, is for the local governments in places like Boston and Chicago, to place pressure on certain channels they can influence, in a way that would discourage them from helping Chick-Fil-A expand their franchise to their respective cities.  This would be a clear violation of the First Amendment.  If there was evidence that Chick-Fil-A was discriminating against their employees- or their customers- then yes, at that point an investigation would need to be launched, and the government should seek appropriate action.  But a private business owner, expressing his personal views of a political and religious nature, cannot suffer government repression as a result, no matter how noxious those views might be. 
 
At this point, the way the two mayors have handled this situation is a bit dubious, given what they have been quoted as saying in the press.  Some interpret what they’ve said as nothing more than their disapproval for Cathy’s comments, which of course they are entitled to express.  Others have stated that they have made threats, and are intimating that they’ve spoken to, or will speak to, certain mediums that could hinder Chick-Fil-A’s efforts to obtain necessary approval to work in these cities.   
 
Consider the inverse.  What about a company CEO that openly supports gay rights?  It’s not right for he and his company to suffer government intervention, when trying to expand their business opportunities, based on his prerogative of free speech.  This distinction is important, because if we support an inclusive, equality-based expression of one’s personal views, then, in the interest of protecting the First Amendment, we have to be equally as supportive of the right for people to express views that we feel are contrary to the decency our society strives to uphold.  If we say that a pro-gay marriage CEO should not be censored, then the only way we ensure that right is protected, is by extending an anti-gay marriage CEO the same right.  It’s ugly, and it makes us feel like we’re enabling a crime, but when the time comes for advocates of equality to express views that transcend time, race, gender, religion and politics, the only way to shield those advocates from accusations of hypocrisy, is to ensure that this right is afforded, and protected, by all.
 
Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
 
2.)  I will first acknowledge, that people like Cathy are devout and believe wholeheartedly in the Bible being the literal word of God.  Believing as such, they see no moral incongruity with their views on homosexuality, because if the Bible says it’s wrong, then those of us that support gay rights are clearly deranged.  In other words, Cathy cannot see the social consequences of his statements, nor the impact that religion has on influencing politics, which in turn relegates human beings to second class citizens.  He believes fervently in what he expressed, and looks at those of us that support gay marriage as the misguided faction in all of this.  Ideologically, it’s a difficult point to argue.  His authority is just as relevant as anyone on the other side, because the source of his perspective (God) cannot be confirmed or denied. 
 
What’s at the heart of this, along with the obvious struggle for civil liberty and equality for all, is the fact that these laws affect real people, who are honest contributors to our society.  To have to spend all, or part of one’s life, being told that you are essentially less human than your fellow man, is something that no person should have to endure.  I am not religious, so I recognize that it’s easy for me to see this issue in the here and now, detached from what I believe is superstition.  I also recognize that it’s not that simple for the religious amongst us, who believe that granting homosexuals the right to get married is a sin, to cast off their religious principles.  I also fully recognize that not all religious people, believe homosexuals should not have the same rights as their hetero counterparts.
 
So let’s consider the issue logically for a moment.  Since God cannot be proven nor disproved, let’s examine the problem on its surface.  Should we be using an ancient text, littered with contradictions, as the best source for finding solutions to our modern day problems?  And if the answer to that question is yes, then shouldn’t we hold the entire text accountable, considering the breadth of the whole message? 
 
Religion has evolved in many ways.  The issue of racial inequality, and even the acceptance of slavery, is something that is endorsed in many areas of the Bible, but is no longer considered socially appropriate.  There is no argument here.  Slavery, and racial bigotry, are considered morally grotesque.  But that wasn’t always the case.  Religion, in conjunction with society, evolved.  What’s the difference in regards to homosexuality?  Why can’t we evolve on this issue, just as we did on the issue of racial equality?
 
There are numerous sections in the Bible, where the idea of what’s considered appropriate in regards to marriage, and the treatment of women in particular, would never be upheld in today’s civilized world.  I recently stumbled on this Youtube video I found on the subject, and I like what this woman has to say.  I decided not to take her word for the Bible passages she references, and so I checked them all out myself.  What follows are a few examples of Biblical passages, dealing with marriage, and the treatment of women, that underscore the paradox of the Biblical message:
 
I’ll preface this section by saying that the passages mentioned all come from the Old Testament, because the passage most used to admonish homosexuality also comes from the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:22.  I mention the following passages, only because Cathy’s argument is that he supports the “traditional” and “Biblical” idea of marriage and the family;  an idea that gets a bit ambiguous after one examines the following verses:
 
I.  The Old Testament is riddled with polygamy.  If the “traditional” or “Biblical” idea of marriage is a monogamous union anointed by God- between one man and one woman only- then I urge you to open up the Bible and read the following passages, all of which refer to one man and many wives/concubines, and reconcile that with the “traditional” family.  These are just a few;  there are legion.
 
More than one wife:
 
Gen: 4:19, 4:23, 26:34, 28:9, 29:26-30, 30:26, 31:17, 32:22, 36:2, 36:10, 37:2
 
Ex: 21:10
 
Judges: 21:10
 
1 Sam: 1:2, 25:43, 27:3, 30:5, 30:18
 
Concubines:
 
Gen: 25:6
 
Judges: 8:31
 
2 Sam: 5:13
 
1 Kings 11:3
 
1 Chron: 3:9
 
II.  Next there are a few passages that refer to rape, and how if a man rapes a woman that isn’t already engaged or married, he must marry her and pay a fine to her father.  Nowhere does it condemn the act.  It simply implies that the punishment lies in the forced marriage and restitution that the rapist must endure
 
Ex: 22:16
 
Deut: 22:28-29. 
 
III.  Finally, there is the inhumane passage that deals with a woman’s virginity, and how it must be proven on the night of her wedding.  If she is suspected of premarital sex, with a man other than her husband, according to the Bible, she is to be stoned to death.  And to further the misogyny, if the man doing the accusing is proven wrong, he only suffers the whip and a small fine.  This passage is so appalling, that I’ll actually quote it in it’s entirety below:
 
Deut 22: 13-21
 
“If a man marries a girl, then after sleeping with her accuses her of having had premarital intercourse with another man, saying, ‘She was not a virgin when I married her,’ then the girl’s father and mother shall bring the proof of her virginity to the city judges.
 
Her father shall tell them, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to be his wife, and now he despises her, and has accused her of shameful things, claiming that she was not a virgin when she married;  yet here is the proof.’  And they shall spread the garment before the judges.  The judges shall sentence the man to be whipped, and fine him one hundred dollars to be given to the girl’s father, for has falsely accused a virgin of Israel.  She shall remain his wife and he may never divorce her.  But if the man’s accusations are true, and she was not a virgin, the judges shall take the girl to the door of her father’s home where the men of the city shall stone her to death.  She has defiled Israel by flagrant crime, being a prostitute while living at home with her parents;  and such evil must be cleansed from among you.
 
As the woman in the aforementioned video states, if you’re going to stand up and say you believe in the Bible, then you had better stand up for all of it.  The text is rife with examples of brutality, like the one above, which conflicts drastically with messages of love and peace.  One cannot latch onto passages that are convenient for one’s point, while ignoring the many passages that are inconvenient, and expect to be taken seriously.  There is much to be reconciled, and so I’d be careful vocalizing my support for “Biblical definitions” on anything.  My point is if we asked Cathy whether or not he believes a woman, proven to be “impure” on her wedding night, should be stoned to death in 2012, that he would, hopefully, say no.  And if he says no to that, even though he believes that the Bible is the literal word of God, then why does he choose to believe in Leviticus 19:22, that states homosexuality is a sin?  Because that’s what he would be doing.  He’d be choosing one point over another, which would imply that in Cathy’s mind, some of the things God says in the Bible, are no longer relevant.
 
Why can we evolve on the stoning of women, yet not on homosexuality?  It’s either all the word of God, or none of it is.  This is why it’s better that we not use a text, written many thousands of years ago, that needs to be examined in its proper historical context, and is not relevant to modern events, particularly when it comes to the minutiae of who we want to have sex with and how we want to engage in relationships. 
 
Finally, as the video also states, isn’t the idea of a “traditional” family one that loves and supports the other members?  Isn’t it about unconditional love, that doesn’t discriminate for reasons of race, ethnicity, religion, politics, or sexual orientation?  I standby what I’ve written in the past, which is that if homosexuality was never labeled “sinful”, by any book deemed holy, there would be no justification for the prejudice that has dictated these exclusory policies.  And if you believe that God controls everything, and that he somehow sees something inherently wrong in homosexuality, then explain why he wouldn’t “create” everyone in a manner that suits his tastes?  To believe that he is omnipotent, but somehow has allowed these people to rebel against his wishes, means that he’s not really all that powerful.  Or, it means that he fully intended on including homosexuality as a part of life, and as such, a part of his creation.  Or, and this is my view, it’s completely nuts to assume a supernatural being exists, that none of us possess the ability to articulate, let alone understand, and it’s even more insane to believe that if he did exist, he would concern himself with what we eat, drink, and fornicate with. 
 
It’s equality for all, or equality for none.  Gay people are human beings, and the use of religion as a justification for denying them their basic rights, is an insult to the fundamental ideal at the heart of every major religion;  what the Christians call, The Golden Rule.  It’s time we let go of our hatred.  It’s time we let go of our belief that some people aren’t entitled to the same rights as the rest of us.  It’s time we see this from a human perspective, and not from a political one.  Sometimes, believing in something, doesn’t make it right no matter how many ineffable sky deities we erect.  The sooner we can begin to hold ourselves accountable for our here and now, the sooner we might understand that we have the power to create the necessary change that future generations will look back on with reverence, and not embarrassment.  If you think that’s melodramatic, just consider how you think about the institution of slavery, or how uneasy it makes you to consider segregation.  That’s how our children, and our children’s children will be looking back at our time, and this issue.  When history examines the sides taken, which one will you be on?
 
“In dark ages people are best guided by religion, as in a pitch-black night a blind man is the best guide;  he knows the roads and paths better than a man who can see.  When daylight comes, however, it is foolish to use blind old men as guides.”  Heinrich Heine, Gendanken Und Einfalle
 
 
 
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