The ongoing flap over Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy's "guilty as charged" admission to the Baptist Press in defining his personal opposition to gay marriage, favoring instead the "biblical definition" of the family, raises two familiar issues.
The first of them, public protests and boycott campaign plans by social media, along with opposition by public officials, particularly from Chicago and Boston, ran afoul of the First Amendment. The mayors of those two cities, Rahm Emanuel and Thomas Menino, and Chicago First Ward Alderman Proco Moreno were forced to take back threats to deny Chick-Fil-A permits to open restaurants, as even the American Civil Liberties Union agreed Cathy's political views are protected by the guarantee of free speech.
The freedoms protected by the Constitution also guarantee the right to protest, boycott and the "kiss-in" demonstrations by same-sex couples at Chick-Fil-A restaurants — freedom of expression works both ways. However, right or wrong, agree or disagree, what does it say about the state of tolerance in the U.S.?
What is tolerance? Robert G. Ingersoll, a 19th century American orator, politician and noted agnostic, defined it as: "Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself."
Likewise, a particular hero of mine, U.S. Marine Gen. Ray Davis, a Korean War Medal of Honor recipient, put it this way: "Tolerance only for those who agree with you is no tolerance at all."
Viewed in perspective, Chick-Fil-A has never concealed its Christian values — its Sunday closures have cost the restaurant chain an estimated $700 million in sales and $210 million annually in profit. It should come as no surprise that a company that puts family time and faith before profits would uphold the biblical view of marriage.
This is not to say that dissenters do not retain the right to protest, boycott and demonstrate against the policies of Chick-Fil-A and the views of its president. Nevertheless, any fair and objective evaluation of the chain might temper the objections fanned by the ever-present knee-jerk practitioners of their own particular brand of "tolerance."
Personal beliefs of Cathy notwithstanding, the Georgia-based restaurant chain, which has more than 1,600 fast food restaurants in 39 states, does not discriminate against its customers or its employees. To treat every person with honor, dignity and respect, regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender has been its policy since first opening in an Atlanta food court in 1967.
It would seem to a rational being that tolerance must be a two-way street. In the realm of sexual orientation, one must realize that of the some 230 million adults in America, more than 60 percent by reason of religious beliefs, traditionalism and upbringing, still define marriage as a state of union between a man and a woman, according to a recent Slate article.
Contrary to the notion of many in the LGBT community and its supporters, this is not an automatic rejection of, or discrimination against, that lifestyle. In fact, a similar majority of Americans (more than 60 percent) support civil unions as an objective and fair solution.
Consequently, while examples such as the Jim Henson Company dropping its Muppets partnership with the chain, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee saying "no way to Chick-Fil-A" and former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's silly allegation that the purchase of a Chick-Fil-A sandwich means you don't believe LGBT members should enjoy equal rights.
For the champions of political correctness, multiculturalism and diversity to define bigotry and discrimination as any belief other than that which the self-ordained have defined as "correct" is hardly a path to compromise. A show of tolerance for those who do not trod your path rather than the "to the ramparts to demonstrate and protest" mentality is far more grown up and will gain more respect.
To give credit where credit is due, at least half of the individual comments I found from LGBT members were supportive of Chick-Fil-A. Perhaps there is more tolerance on the street than among city officials, organizations and social media?