Should we ban Chick-fil-A for not supporting gay marriage?

The founder of Chick-fil-A said he supports the Photo: Associated Press

ARKANSAS, July 26, 2012 — Incredibly, one of the most passionately argued political topics this week has been the chicken-based restaurant Chick-fil-A, after its founder said in an interview that he was for the “traditional family” and the “biblical family unit”.

He never directly mentioned gay marriage at all, although the fact that he donates money to conservative organizations means it’s probably true that he takes the traditional conservative position.

The response has been passionate and reflexive, with those supporting gay marriage posting thousands of angry responses on the corporate Facebook fan page. Some pro-gay politicians have even called for the ban of the restaurant to somehow punish the founder for daring to believe something that about half of America believes.

Politicians are trying to ban Chick-fil-A?

Make no mistake, this isn’t about chicken. Some people are calling for a government response. That makes this about more than just what people think about the choices other people make in the bedroom. This is a question of economic liberty and using force to hurt people we disagree with.

For example, Thomas M. Menino, the Mayor of Boston, said:

“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion…

“That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail…

“If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies.”

Besides the obvious contradiction of calling a place an “open city” while threatening to ban an organization because of the beliefs of the founder, the problem here is that this is the wrong way to go about handling a difference of opinions. And Menino isn’t the only politician calling for the ban.

In Chicago, it’s already happening. Alderman Joe Moreno in Chicago is already moving to ban Chick-fil-A from opening in his area of Chicago, using the government licensing as the method of stopping it. His reasoning is just as blunt as the Boston mayor’s; he disagrees with Chick-fil-A’s founder, and he wants to use government power against the company because of that disagreement.

The mayor of Chicago has announced that he supports Alderman Moreno, and will be trying to get the city to ban Chick-fil-A. This isn’t just about chicken anymore, or even gay marriage. This is about political persecution for believing a certain way.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the most liberal person in the world, if you support free speech, you should be horrified at the use of government power to shut out businesses whose owners have views contrary to local politicians’ views. Boycott all you want, but keep the government out of this. 

It’s not about chicken.

The issues being brought up when it comes to the Chick-fil-A aren’t just about the opinions of an older CEO. It’s not even about the political positioning of a corporation, because plenty of corporations donate money to candidates who actively work against same-sex marriage.

The issue here is how people respond to those they disagree with. There are essentially a couple of options for people who disagree with Chick-fil-A and want to show their disagreement have three basic options:

a) Respond with argument.
b) Respond with boycott.
c) Respond with government.

Arguments are wonderful and should be used. On Chick-fil-A’s page there are thousands of comments left both in support and in rejection of the company’s founder’s positions.

The boycott is also important, because it’s still based on choice. If people don’t support the actions of a corporation, they’re free to just stop shopping there. The financial impact alone is more than enough to usually either crumple corporations that do what’s unpopular or convince them to go with the flow.

Don’t use bans. Use arguments instead.

In America, we believe in open conversation and allowing people to make up their own minds about who they will and won’t support. That’s why we shouldn’t force people to be of one religion or to be atheists or something else entirely. People should be allowed to make up their own minds.

Chick-fil-A doesn’t actively discriminate. If you’re gay, you can eat there. If you’re straight, you can eat there. Your sexual orientation doesn’t matter at all if you want to be a customer or employee of the company.

The only matter, the only real disagreement here, is about the political positions of company’s founder, and what he does with his money.

If we’re going to stay logically consistent, then any small-business owner who has donated money to Focus On the Family should have his business shut down. Anyone who voted against homosexual marriage should obviously have their business shut down.

Tolerance? Give me a break. Anyone who believes that we should use violence to stop the businesses of people because we don’t like how they vote isn’t a tolerant person. They’re using violence rather than reason.

The logical implications of the idea that government should use force on people who don’t support gay marriage means that conservatives should be barred from business. And why stop there? What’s the difference between owning a business and being an employee?

Obviously, few people will follow their ban arguments to their logical conclusions. And that’s part of the point: They’re not staying consistent, because their beliefs are either wrong or lead to even worse discrimination than they’re accusing others of. It’s a position that is just fundamentally wrong.

Double-standards and hypocrisy.

Liberty is for those we disagree with, too. People who claim to be for tolerance and “open cities” who turn to government to stop businesses from existing because of personal quibbles they have with the owners and founders is just sad. It’s bad economics, it’s probably illegal under most state constitutions, and it’s wrong. It’s no way to carry on a national debate.

Every political issue is a question of rights. If someone supports increasing taxes, that means theft under some models of capitalism. If someone doesn’t support gay marriage, that’s a question of what people believe their rights are. If someone supports going to war, there’s a huge question of rights.

The idea that government should punish people whenever they dare voice their support for certain political position means that our governments will decide other issues as well. And why stop at corporations? Why not regulate churches, too? In Canada, they’ve already gone that far, with their Supreme Court currently deciding whether it’s legal for a man to even list a Biblical passage that condemns homosexuality. Not even quote it; just list it. That is madness.

Why this really does matter.

The Chick-fil-A story is a story about markets. We’ll soon see whether people really care what the founder of Chick-fil-A believes about marriage. We’ll see because, in the end, people vote with their dollars. Some will boycott, some will buy more chicken, and most, honestly, just won’t care.

That’s the way these sorts of controversies should be handled. Not with the mayor trying to openly ban a business from existing because he disagrees with the founder over something political. That’s not freedom of speech or freedom of expression or any other freedom that liberals typically claim that they care about.

But this is about more than just markets. It’s about the right to disagree with others without being politically punished. If you disagree with people on the topic of homosexuality, then argue with them. Convince them with words. Change their minds. But don’t try to ruin their lives or crush their businesses with government. That’s nothing short of tyranny, even if it’s only over a chicken restaurant.

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Shaun Connell

Shaun Connell is an investor, writer, and entrepreneur passionate about economics, finance, and politics.

Shaun is the editor of Capitalism Institute, where he writes about economic principles and political theory. He’s also the author of Live Gold Prices, where he reviews important economic and market news.

Passionate about economics and liberty, Shaun was naturally drawn to the Austrian approach to human behavior, and tries to write all of his content from such an angle.

Shaun also enjoys nice cigars, good bourbon, and grilling as often as he can.


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