The Chick-fil-A protest could boomerang against activists

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 1 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

Chick-fil-A customers wait in line to order lunch in Midvale Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012.  Nationally, supporters of Chick-fil-A have declared Wednesday Chick-fil-A customers wait in line to order lunch in Midvale Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. Nationally, supporters of Chick-fil-A have declared Wednesday "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

For two years now, a good many citizens in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in connivance with local politicians and courts, have been fighting the construction of a mosque in their town. They've used a number of legal subterfuges, even arguing in court that Islam is not a religion, which probably came as a surprise to the world's billion or so Muslims, though not Tennessee's astute lieutenant governor, who keenly observed that Islam is more likely "a nationality, a way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it."

But outside courtrooms, the mosque opponents are pretty blunt about their real motivation: They just don't want any Muslims butting into their town. "I didn't say to hate 'em," one man told CNN. "I'm just saying we don't need 'em here." Said another to Time magazine: "I respect their rights to worship as they see fit, but I'm not certain this promotes domestic tranquility."

Murfreesboro's embrace of the idea that government can be used to keep out anybody you don't like has made the place a national poster child for backwoods ignorance and yahooism. But last week brought some happy news for the Murfreesboro chamber of commerce: Just proclaim your town a citadel of progressive thought, point out that Muslims don't share your values, and then flat-out ban 'em. If anybody complains, invoke the magic words: Chick-fil-A.

Progressive politicians from coast to coast were lining up last week to keep Chick-fil-A's fried-chicken restaurants out of their towns after the company's president Dan Cathy made statements that suggested (more on that in a minute) he opposes gay marriage. Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno, called Cathy "bigoted" and "homophobic" and added: "Because of this man's ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-fil-A's permit to open a restaurant in the 1st Ward." Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that goes for the entire city: "Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino immediately chimed in with a pledge to fight a planned Chick-fil-A in his city. "It doesn't send the right message to the country," he explained. "We're a leader when it comes to social justice and opportunities for all."

And in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee launched a barrage of threats on Twitter: "Very disappointed .ChickfilA doesn't share San Francisco's values & strong commitment to equality for everyone. . Closest .ChickfilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not to try to come any closer."

So what was it Cathy said to get his company banned from three of the largest cities in America? A reporter from a Baptist magazine, the Biblical Recorder, asked him about his "company's support of the traditional family." Replied Cathy: "Well, guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

Not a word was spoken, by either Cathy or the reporter, about gay marriage, gay rights or gay anything at all. Nobody said anything about what kind of laws should be passed or rejected, or what kind of politicians should be elected or kicked out. If a man saying he's proud to be married to a woman now amounts to homophobia, does that also mean that gay-pride marches are heterophobic?

But let's accept for a moment the thin logic equation that preference for heterosexual marriage equals opposition to gay marriage and opposition to gay marriage equals homophobia. And let's accept further that the First Amendment means no more in Boston, Chicago or San Francisco than it does in Murfreesboro, and that these cities are all free to close down businesses operated by anyone who doesn't share their "values."

You know who the big loser will be in that scenario? Progressives and their companies. Because, like it or not, they're the ones who don't share majority values. Across America, the right to gay marriage has appeared on the ballot 32 times over the past few years, and it has lost every single time. Only six states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriages. (If the mayors of San Francisco and Chicago are really sincere in wanting to keep out everybody who doesn't believe in gay marriage, they ought to secede from their states; neither Illinois nor California permit same-sex marriage.)

If pandering progressive politicians are allowed to put Chick-fil-A out of business, you can bet that the folks on the other side will be doing the same to Amazon.com, whose founders just donated $2.5 million to support a gay-marriage initiative in Washington state. Say so long to Oreos (Nabisco, earlier this summer, put them in a bag featuring a cookie with a multicolored gay-pride stuffing) as well as Cheerios, Pillsbury pastries and Green Giant vegetables (owner General Mills is opposing a Minnesota constitutional amendment that would outlaw gay marriage). JC Penney, which has put pictures of gay dads in its catalogs and uses Ellen Degeneres as its spokeswoman, will be history. And we'll all be living in Murfreesboro.

Glenn Garvin is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

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