For my entire life, as a citizen of the United States, I’ve appreciated my right to freedom of speech, and those who know me well are aware I often make full use of that right. Part of that right includes not being surprised when others, some in a position of leadership, also speak their minds. That’s what is so great about this country and what separates us from so many other nations. The Pulitzer Prize winning columnist William Raspberry, who we recently lost to prostate cancer, once wrote, “…in virtually every public controversy, most thoughtful people secretly believe both sides.”
I like to think that I’m a thoughtful guy, and I truly believe there are two sides to every story. I also appreciate my freedom of religion, and find it ironic that, as with our other rights, they are God given rights. I say it’s ironic because so many don’t understand that freedom of religion includes the right to not believe in God. With that being said, I do believe in one God, and I count myself as a Christian. Frankly, I don’t want to go deeper into my religion because I feel like it’s a private matter.
Generally, I love it when someone, primarily a business owner, puts their money where their mouth is, even if I don’t particularly agree with their point of view. A perfect example has usually been the case of Chick-Fil-A. Their founder, S. Truett Cathy made it clear for decades that their restaurants would remain closed on Sundays so that their employees could go to church with their families. Bravo! Clearly, they could have made much more money if they reversed that policy, and I applaud their decision to stick with their plan. If it’s Sunday and you have a jones for poultry, you’ll just have to find some other place.
My first heartburn with Chick-Fil-A, (aside from an overly greasy sandwich), was when it was discovered that nearly $2,000,000 had been donated by WinShape to several anti-gay organizations. Most didn’t know that WinShape was a “charitable foundation” set up originally by the Cathy family to help feed the homeless. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that some of the organizations supported by these funds are anything but charitable. When their current President, Dan Cathy was first asked about this, he was quoted as saying, “We’re not anti-anybody… Our mission is to create raving fans.” Prodded further, as those of my ilk are wont to do, he said, “While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees.”
Well, that frankly was the last chicken sandwich I personally bought at a Chick-Fil-A. I shouldn’t be eating that much fried food anyway. Although I still had a problem with the organizations WinShape was supporting, I appreciated that the Cathy’s had some religious views that they held dear. Their “charitable foundation” was free to donate their money to who they want, just as I was free to not spend my money there. Although in my mind, homophobic, Cathy’s public statements seemed measured to minimize the disrespect. That has changed.
Earlier this month, on a radio show, Cathy said, “we’re 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. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.” Well, that ups the ante a bit, because that doesn’t sound a lot like loving and respecting anyone who disagrees. Polls show that about 50% of Americans have evolved their viewpoints to a point where they favor same-sex marriage. For those 35 years and younger, the percentage skews highly upward from that figure. Now Cathy has moved so political that he feels those people are “prideful and arrogant”. Well Dan Cathy might have lost most of his LGBT clientele a few years back, but there are a larger number of straight allies willing to withhold their money as well. The Baptist Press, in an interview allowed him an opportunity to clarify that statement and he said, “Guilty as charged”, a pretty prideful, arrogant statement if you ask me. He added, as if this wasn’t clear enough, that he was “supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.”
I remain amazed how many “Christians” feel that a gay family is somehow less than a family unit, and that a country with a defined freedom of religion should somehow deny the gay family their liberties. Oh wait, our country DOES deny their liberties. I should add that I think “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation” for that reason, but I’ll leave that for another day.
This brings me to the reason that I’ve written this today. That’s right, you’re over 800 words into this and I haven’t gotten there yet! An official announcement was made on Wednesday at a Prince William Chamber of Commerce function that on November 27th, a Luncheon with a CEO event would have as the speaker,…….you guessed it, Dan Cathy. This leaves me in a bit of a quandary. Of course the leadership in this pretty conservative county might view this as a coup, rather than a problem. That is completely understandable. His dad founded a strong business, and so far Dan has managed to not run it into the ground. Yet.
What to do, what to do? I could just not attend, and stay in my office that day, quietly boycotting a man with which my disagreement has grown exponentially this week. That’s one idea, and I would assume it is the approach that most of my chamber compatriots would prefer. I could gather a few hundred of my LGBT and PFLAG friends, (not an exaggeration), to protest his arrival at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas starting at 11:30 am that day. I feel certain that I’d make quite a few enemies that way, which although not the first time; that never really is my plan. Or I could pay my money, eat what I’m certain would be a better than fast food lunch, and wait for the Q & A. At that point, I would just be myself, and you know how bad that can be. Given the audience, it might be just as uncomfortable for me as it would be for him, but I’ve been known to speak my mind in front of some tough crowds. The more uncomfortable he is, the more comfortable I’d be anyway.
President-Metro DC PFLAG
July 20, 2012