A recent letter in USA Today crystallizes the sentiment coming from this camp:
It seems as if people on the left don't approve of free speech unless it is in line with their beliefs. They call for boycotts of companies that espouse opinions other than their own. This has got to stop. This is the United States of America, where everyone has the right to free speech.These folks seem to be completely missing the point.
I disagree with comments of Bill Maher, but I don't harass or boycott HBO. Maher has the right to make any statement he wants without the country launching a concerted effort to destroy him, and so does the president of Chick-fil-A.
Stifling free speech with boycotts is extremely dangerous.
This is not really about free speech. Nobody is saying that CEO Dan Cathy shouldn't be allowed to voice his personal views or beliefs. Nobody is saying that companies should never operate on principles that are important to its founders.
It's not what Dan Cathy says that is so troublesome here (although it is disheartening and disappointing to those who support equality). If Dan Cathy voiced his support for Mitt Romney, I don't believe that voicing this would result in liberals organizing a national boycott.
What is the most troubling about Chick-fil-A, and what most pro-Chick-fil-a/pro-family values folks seem to be missing, is that Dan Cathy and his corporation funnel millions of dollars into multiple discredited propaganda-spewing anti-LGBT organizations, including some that have been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
There is a huge difference between supporting a company that doesn't share your personal political views and supporting a company that actively supports hate groups.
One of these groups is the Family Research Council. Here's a sample of some of the FRC's hateful comments:
“Gaining access to children has been a long-term goal of the homosexual movement.”Despite that fact that 82% of child sex abuse is committed by heterosexual men, the FRC (and others, to be sure) continues to perpetuate blatantly false correlations between homosexuality and pedophilia.
— Robert Knight, FRC director of cultural studies, and Frank York, 1999
“One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets' of a new sexual order.”
-1999 FRC pamphlet, Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex with Boys.
“[T]he evidence indicates that disproportionate numbers of gay men seek adolescent males or boys as sexual partners.”
— Timothy Dailey, senior research fellow, “Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse,” 2002
Chick-fil-A also funnels money into Exodus International, the infamous "ex-gay" ministry. Exodus is described as "a non-profit, interdenominational "ex-gay" Christian organization that seeks to limit bisexual and homosexual desires." The consensus among the world's major scientific and medical communities is that "being gay, lesbian or bisexual is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment." In addition, Exodus International's founder, Alan Chambers, recently addressed a Gay Christian Network audience, stating that "99.9% of conversion therapy participants do not experience any change to their sexuality." He then apologized for the previous Exodus slogan "Change Is Possible."
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has stated that "ex-gay" therapy organizations and ministries "lack medical justification" and "represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people."
Quite simply, "Ex-gay" therapy doesn't work, it's harmful, and Chick-fil-A actively supports it.
There are many other troublesome details about Chick-fil-A's policies and their involvement with anti-LGBT groups of which the general public is unaware.
The vocal reaction to Chick-fil-A's stances on gay marriage is not simply based on a difference of beliefs, it is a visceral reaction to the realization that Chick-fil-A actively supports organizations that do great harm to human beings.
If the CEO of Wendy's stated today that he believes African Americans to be inferior, and if we learned that Wendy's donates millions to the Ku Klux Klan each year, the uproar and calls for boycotts would not be attacks on "free speech." This would not simply be a company that has "different beliefs." This would be a company that actively supports a hate group and which endorses discrimination and the intimidation of individuals based on their natural traits. To patronize Wendy's would be to indirectly endorse and support such discrimination. To choose to stop patronizing Wendy's would be to divert money away from their cause.
Of course, if we investigated every company we support, we would undoubtedly learn a great deal that might change the way we spend our money. We know that Apple has issues in their treatment of foreign labor workers. We know that Target has supported some anti-gay candidates. We can't be expected to be aware of every stance or practice of every corporation we patronize. However, upon learning about a particular company's unsavory practice or stance, we can make a conscious decision right then and there about whether or not we want to continue supporting that company. If anything, this particular instance should encourage all of us to learn more about the corporations we support.
This is a free country and capitalism works well when we vote with our pocketbooks. Voicing disappointment in a business owner's politics is not stifling to free speech. It is the exercising of free speech. Let the free market decide whether a business succeeds or fails based on its practices.
Let's get one thing clear. This is not about stifling free speech. This is about consumers taking a stand against discrimination. This is about a society voicing its disapproval of a company that supports practices which have been deemed harmful by the world's scientific and medical communities. This is about looking out for one another.