The recent controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A has been utterly fascinating to me for several different reasons. It amazed me that one comment brought so many key issues back to the forefront of national conversation. It amazed me that those key issues branched out into several smaller issues. And it amazed me that so many people representing so many different viewpoints seemingly came out of the woodwork in order to express them.
Last week, during the height of the controversy, I started putting together what I’m calling “The Best from Within My Sphere".
My friend SEAN posted this to his Facebook page, which I'm posting here with his permission.
Chick-Fil-A, on their website, asks customers to "Share Your Chick-Fil-A Story", so I wrote this:
Growing up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania, there weren't as many culinary options as there are in a bigger city. I discovered Chick-Fil-A in 1990 and instantly fell in love with the spices and flavors of the chicken nuggets. They were simply in a different league than any fast food I'd eaten.
I graduated from high school and moved to many different cities over the next few years and ended up pursuing a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. I’d find a Chick-Fil-A in every city I moved to that had one. It always reminded me of my hometown, my youth and of where I came from.
But Chick-Fil-A has a different connotation to me nowadays. As the multicultural specialist for the counseling center at UCSC, I work closely with students, many of them LGBT. They sit in my office and tell me their stories. I hear intimate details about their lives.
I hear how they were shunned by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes because they were gay. I believe that Chick-Fil-A donated almost $500,000 to them.
I hear how their parents believed what they read on the Family Research Council's website and decided not to "affirm" their "choice", so they kicked them out of the house. Another organization sponsored by Chick-Fil-A.
I hear how they were sent to a camp run by Exodus International and how they became suicidal and depressed from their experiences there. They were some of my toughest clients and I almost lost a few of them to their newfound self-hatred. You gave them money also.
So my Chick-Fil-A story is this….once upon a time, I loved the food and it was my top fast food choice. It brought back happy memories. But after having to undo damage done by groups your restaurant has financially supported over the years, I cannot bring myself to place a single dollar into the hands of those who defy everything I've learned about psychology, human nature, and human kindness.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s Letter to Chick-Fil-A, which I posted to my Facebook page.
Whether or not Menino was within his legal right to do so, his letter to Chick-Fil-A banning them from Boston was, at the very least, a gutsy and glorious gesture.
A Facebook friend of mine posted this and it generated a very lengthy discussion (edited here where necessary):
I STAND BY CHICK-FIL-A AND THEIR DECISION TO BE ABLE TO SAY IF THEY AGREE OR DISAGREE...........to hell with Boston, they are the ones missing out!
SEAN: Agreeing and disagreeing is one thing. Actively funding an organization that's messing up vulnerable kids is quite another.
ME: There's one smack dab in the middle of Hollywood. I gladly walk right by it. And it's not about agreeing or disagreeing. I don't mind what they do with their personal dollars. I mind what they do with their corporate dollars. It's a slap in the face to those who patronize their business and to those who work for the company on any level.
EJ: I don’t agree with gay marriage and they will get my money.......SO WILL YOU GAYS BOYCOTT ME? (this is especially interesting considering EJ is a gay.)
CMB: Terrence you wanna marry a man?
ME: I don't want to marry anyone but if I wanted to, I don't like be told what I can and cannot do. I fully support anyone's right to marry WHO they want. I emphasize the "who" for those who want to sully this conversation with talk about goats and cows.
EJ: THERE IS A LOT MORE THINGS YOU GAY PEOPLE CAN WORRY ABOUT AND BE CONCERNED ABOUT compared to whether Chick-Fil-A agrees with the lifestyle or not. They are a Christian-based organization and if they are closed on Sunday and lose millions of dollars what makes you all think you will become relevant. Chick-Fil-A never said that you all could not marry. They said they do not agree with it.
ME: I don't care that they close on Sundays. I don't care that they don't "agree with my lifestyle". I care that they use their "Christ honoring business" to support organizations that go beyond "just not agreeing". They don't have to agree. I don't care. But don't call it Christian-based. Don't fund gay rights. But don't fund anti-gay sentiment either. If they really want to hold up their beliefs, don't accept gay dollars. I'd like to see THAT press release.
CC: I have no desire to have the money I spend at a business be turned around and donated to a hate-filled organization. I will not go to Chick-Fil-A. My husband and I were looking for a place to visit for our 5 year anniversary next year and Boston just gave itself a boost.
EJ: Well don’t spend money with the state and some governments either then....I am pretty sure a lot them don’t agree with it.
JTO: They donated millions of dollars to anti-gay causes. I refuse to give them any more to spend on bigotry and hate. They are welcome to their opinion and bigots are welcome to eat there.
EJ: Well I guess that makes me a greedy bigot. lol...CAUSE I AM GOING TO CONTINUE TO EAT THERE AS WELL AS DRINK THERE.
ME: And you are entitled to do so. I don't see why, but I don't need to. and the government doesn't need to agree, but they sure as hell can't go against it without getting overthrown
SEAN: I could give two shits about whether they agree with it or not, though for the record it's not a "lifestyle". Veganism is a lifestyle. Yacht clubs are a lifestyle. This is a fundamental piece of identity, an inexchangeable part of who and what we are, and it's not only coming under attack by so-called Christians who are focused more on anti-gay than pro-anything, but it's coming under attack from organizations that they fund. As a psychologist, I've spent countless hours with crying teenagers, often on the brink of suicide, because these groups that Cathy funds are offering camps and workshops aimed at misguided bigots who take whatever Bible verse out of context to support their cause. The Bible was used to keep women in their place for decades until it wasn't allowed by society anymore. The Bible was used to support blacks getting 3/5 of a vote until we realized that it was completely abhorrent. And in 2012, bigotry against gays and lesbians is being supported by old-school, rich white Bible-thumping sheep who were told by their prejudiced grandparents what to think. And they believe it's still okay. Any time your money goes toward making other human beings feel badly about themselves for something that every medical and psychological authority says is an irrevocable piece of who they are, you might as well just go back to being a misogynist, a racist, a xenophobe, or any other type of bigot you choose. But I wouldn't buy a chicken sandwich that funds women learning they belong in the kitchen, Mexicans being deported back to Mexico or blacks and whites using different water fountains. So I'm sure as shit not doing it so gay kids can hang themselves in the backyard, to be discovered by their parents when they get home from Sunday School.
BT: These are editorial comments from the LA Times and the Boston Globe, not exactly well known as bastions of conservatism: The Los Angeles Times condemned the decision, calling it far more troubling than Chick-fil-A’s support of traditional marriage.
“Public officials have a responsibility to carry out their ministerial tasks fairly and evenhandedly – and to uphold the principle of free speech – whether or not they like a business executive’s social or political stances,” the Times opined.
The Boston Globe wondered “which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license.
So while I may disagree with what he said, he still has a right to say it. Everyone has a right not to eat at his restaurants. But Mayors do not have a right to block his building of new restaurants in their city because of personal and/or political beliefs. As far as I am aware, we still do have the 1st Amendment, until that is taken away from us due to political correctness as well.
ME: While that is a good point, this is not a free speech issue. CFA has every right to feel how they feel but not to use corporate funds to do whatever they want. The best thing they can do is be neutral from a business standpoint. Since they aren't, I don't see why Menino has to be either. Besides, public officials also have a responsibility to represent their constituency. While a lot of Boston residents won't give a shit either way about CFA or gay marriage, MA was first to the gate on the latter issue so it would be incongruous for them not to make this type of gesture. From a business standpoint, CFA would be wise to avoid Boston altogether if this is the response from the Mayor.
SEAN: And again, he's funding organizations offering "therapy" that's been disavowed by every major psychological, sociological, psychiatric, and medical association in the country. They're hurting people and calling it counseling, there's no disagreement in the field about that. It's not therapy when death rates go up. He's literally throwing money at an organization that's raising the fatality rate amongst a disenfranchised group of people. Say what you will, but when kids like me (20 years ago) are dying because of your philanthropy, please standby as I do everything in my power to drive that company into bankrupcy before another kid takes his own life.
BT: Chick-Fil-A is a private company, so they can do whatever they want with their money. They are not beholden to shareholders or anyone else. You know I love you and support anything you do, but I feel like this is more of a PC issue with a hot button topic. If it starts refusing service to gays, then yes that is discrimination and I would not eat there either (although I never have before). But people need to make their own decisions on whether to eat there or not, not whether he can have a business.
EJ: People! Chic-Fil-A has never said it wouldn't serve any group. It merely states that the owner/company believes in marriage between man and woman.
SEAN: "Merely" supporting organizations financially that are responsible for teenage suicides is not something that deserves such a reductionistic tone, though. Gay kids, coming out of Chick-Fil-A sponsored organizations, are killing themselves more often than kids not sent to said camps. So buying their product says "that's fine, I like their waffle fries".
ME: I love you too and I love that we don't agree on everything. Yes, they're a private company. Yes, they have every right to do what they're doing. But having the right to do something doesn't make it right.
CC: Yes, they are a private company. Yes, they can do whatever they want with their money. But I don't want to give them MY money, so they can then use my money to donate to these horrible causes. Also, the mayor has not banned them from building. He doesn't have that power. He simply states his opinion to Cathy, that he "urges" him to consider another location. Just like Cathy has the right to donate his money to hideous causes, just like I have the right to say I will not give that business my money, Menino has the right to express his opinion to Chick-Fil-A that they don't belong there.
BT: Unfortunately CC, when he represents the entire city of Boston, he has a sworn duty to uphold the law. One could make an argument that this is a form of intimidation. I'm not saying it is (although I do feel it is). He never should have injected his own beliefs. If asked, he could answer honestly (if he truly feels that way) about his own personal beliefs, but not acting as the mayor of a major American city. If he can't separate the two, he can't be mayor. And since this is not the first time he has interjected his opinion on businesses he doesn't feel are adequate enough for his fair city, I feel this is more political than anything else.
EJ: You people really seem upset about this though. This too shall pass.
ME: This will not pass. This is not something that just passes.
This much shorter Facebook exchange between D and me ended rather unexpectedly:
D: I will not stop eating Chick-Fil-A! It is a good company and very religious. Is it surprising that a religious organization/company doesn't support gay marriage? Duh! Hello people! The company, CEO, or whomever is saying that it doesn't support same-sex marriage -- which is different from saying that it will not hire or serve gays. Seriously, people should be able to believe what they want to believe especially if it is part of their religious beliefs.
(buncha other comments)
Me: This is not about sensitivity. This is not about gay rights organizations being bullies. (comments made in parts of this thread I did not include here.) This is about a company, albeit private, openly supporting organizations that openly discriminate against an entire group of people. That's the issue. I don't care that the CEO doesn't support equal rights for gays. I care that the company will accept gay dollars but then turn around and use those dollars to support anti-gay organizations. While they as a private company have every right to do so, having the right doesn't necessarily mean it's right to do so. If Cathy wants to use his own money to do so, that's fine. But unless the company is also going to turn away gay business, then it's best to stay neutral.
D: Ok, Terrence. I feel you. Damn, Damn, Damn. I have to give up my Chick-Fil-A. I worked there for 5 years before I went to college.
I was stunned and speechless, but pleased.
This posting by Scott J. generated a lot of attention.
I'm gay and I do not care what one fast food owner’s opinion of me is. They actually have good food, offer employment for gays and give a lot of money to terminally ill children. Let them be able to practice their First amendment rights peacefully without fear of this bullshit, because everyone deserves a voice in this country -- right or wrong.
So instead of doing this "Boycott" BS, how about you spend more time educating people about love and understanding and make us look like actual loving people instead of self-righteous assholes who can't treat people with a different opinion than theirs with decent tolerance and respect!
I didn’t comment on this because there were already over 1,000 of them. Like many others, he missed the core issue of the entire controversy. It was not about an opinion. It was not about free speech. It was not about love and understanding. It wasn’t about the boycott. It was not about a difference of opinion. It was not about the “good” that they do. It was about the “bad” that they do – which was completely overlooked by Scott.
And we’ve come full circle with a final word from Sean:
The First Amendment means you can say what you want to say. And Mr. Cathy did. And he expressed that he's proud to send money to groups that call their work therapy, inflict emotional turmoil on human beings, and increase their likelihood of anxiety, depression, and suicide. This isn't about anyone's opinions. This is about funding organizations that are really hurting teenagers. And I'm saying this as a licensed psychologist who often works with those kids who survive the Exodus International camps. They. Are. Hurting. Children.
And that has been the issue with all of this. It’s not about whether Dan Cathy will be throwing rice or casting judgment at my wedding to Ian because he’d rather I marry Mary Jane. It’s not about free speech. It’s not about chicken. It’s not about the Bible. It’s not about boycotts. It’s not about Appreciation Days. It’s not even about marriage.
It’s only about one thing – knowing where your money is REALLY going and what you may not know the causes that money is actually supporting. You have the right to know, just like you have the right to decide for yourself if those causes are worth your business.
And it’s not just Chick-Fil-A. There are others out there but they either do it on the sly or have the wisdom not to use corporate funds.
Like any great discussion, those who are tired of hearing about it are bound for disappointment because this is only the beginning.