The Chick-fil-A Flap Is Not Really About Free Speech

I've been seeing loads of commentary on the Chick-fil-A gay marriage flap that implies this is a debate about free speech. There have been numerous Facebook posts, letters to the editor, and blog posts about how those who are boycotting Chick-fil-A are hypocrites for defending the speech of liberal figures but punishing CEO Dan Cathy for expressing his opinions.

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.

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.
These folks seem to be completely missing the point.

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.”
— 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
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.

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.


Patterns In Data Realization: Maps Depicting Social Ills Look Eerily Familiar

Update (8/27/13): 
The website PornHub has just released a trove of data on America's porn habits. I couldn't help but notice that, once again, it's THAT MAP. I have added the map to the bottom of this previously-published post.

I'm fascinated by data realizations in map form. They say a picture's worth a thousand words.

I'm not going to make any statements about cause and effect, as we all know that correlation does not imply causation. But there certainly is much to be gleaned from correlation.

The below map has been making the rounds recently. It depicts the largest participating religious groups by county in the United States -- basically which religions are most represented in each county.

As fascinating as it is, it probably doesn't come as much of a surprise:
See that large swath of red across the South? That's the Bible Belt. It has a lot in common with many other maps (some of which have been discussed here before).

Here's a map depicting life expectancies for females, by county:

And here's the same for males:

Here we have a map of religiosity in America, with the darker green depicting the most religious areas:

Here we have a map depicting well-being in America. The lighter areas indicate those areas in which residents report a lower sense of well-being.

Here we have a map depicting poverty in the US. Darker portions of the map indicate higher rates of poverty.

In the below map, we can see the divorce rates for men by state (darker colors indicate the highest rates of divorce):
Here we have the same map for women:

The following colorful map depicts the state of same-sex marriage in America. The darker red states are those which are most hostile towards gay-marriage (see key).

And here we have teen birth rates:
Noticing a pattern here?

Here we have a map of active hate groups:

The following map shows the treatment of evolution in schools, by state:

How about the states accepting abstinence education funds (those in orange denied federal abstinence education funds)?

What about high school diplomas?

And here we have the 2008 presidential election red state/blue state map:

Here's a map showing which states spend the most time on PornHub, the third largest porn video site on the internet. Could it be that the most religious, most conservative, most anti-gay, most anti-evolution, most pro-abstinence education states are also the states spending the most time viewing hardcore pornography?

Again, there are many, many factors that play into each of these maps. There are certainly many complex correlations and causations (and some factors perpetuate others). For example, we know that areas of high poverty will likely (for obvious reasons) experience less well-being, lower rates of education, and lower life expectancies.

The religious and political correlations, however, are more curious.

Do lower levels of well-being and lower life expectancies cause higher rates of religiosity?

Are blue-leaning states more likely to deny evolution? Or are evolution-deniers more likely to vote conservative?

Does abstinence education lead to higher teen pregnancy rates? Or do high teen pregnancy rates lead to more abstinence education?

Are hate groups more likely to be comprised of religious conservatives?

Do lower rates of high school graduates play into higher rates of religious conservatism?

Would an increase in graduation levels decrease the number of religious conservatives, evolution denialists, and hate groups?

Is it offensive to ask these questions? If so, why?

Do you have the answers? Please share.