As I have been watching the controversy about Chick-fil-a over the past week, I have been struck by the persistence of two lies about Chick-fil-a that have been perpetuated through a variety of media outlets. Most of the time, the lies are reported as quotations from another source, but they are rarely challenged or fact-checked by the one reporting the story.
Lie #1: That Chick-fil-a discriminates against homosexuals.
Mayor Tom Menino gave this explanation for why Chick-fil-a is not welcome in Boston: “You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population.” Likewise, the Alderman leading the charge against Chick-fil-a in Chicago said this: “If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the 1st Ward.” Are these allegations accurate? Is it true that Chick-fil-a discriminates against homosexuals? That claim is patently false.
In a statement that has been largely ignored by homosexual activists, Chick-fil-a clarifies:
The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.
This statement and the well-known track record of Chick-fil-a are why even some opinion writers who support same-sex marriage are now editorializing in favor of Chick-fil-a. The pro-gay marriage editors of The Los Angeles Times write:
If Chick-fil-A were to refuse service to gay customers; the city has a right and an obligation to prevent discriminatory actions against its residents and visitors. But there’s no evidence that any such thing has occurred.
Likewise, Eric Zorn of The Chicago Tribune is also in favor of gay marriage, but he editorializes in favor of Chick-fil-a as well. He observes that “Chick-fil-A, doesn’t… discriminate against customers or employees” based on their sexual orientation.
Americans need to understand what is going on in this debate. No one is being discriminated against at Chick-fil-a, despite false reports to the contrary. The President of the company, Dan Cathy, simply expressed his point of view on the issue of marriage—a point of view rooted in his Christian beliefs. And now at least two mayors of America’s two leading cities are saying that they will use their power to punish Chick-fil-a for those views. This is a moral outrage and a violation of the first Amendment to the Constitution. Every American—no matter what your view of gay marriage—should stand against this kind of tyranny.
Lie #2: That Dan Cathy made an anti-gay marriage statement.
This imbroglio began as a result of an interview with Dan Cathy that was published in the Baptist Press. From what I can tell, the Los Angeles Times reported on the Baptist Press story, and it went national. Subsequent reports in the national media described Cathy’s remarks in decidedly negative terms. The Huffington Post described his stance as “anti-gay.” CNN reported that Cathy responded “guilty as charged” to the accusation that he opposes gay marriage. Time magazine had a headline that spoke of Chick-fil-a’s “homophobic attitude.” Did Dan Cathy really plead “guilty as charged” to accusations of having a “homophobic attitude” or of being “anti-gay” or even of being against “gay marriage”?
The truth is that Dan Cathy never mentioned gay marriage or homosexuality at all in the interview. I invite readers to read it for themselves to verify. While Cathy’s remarks certainly have implications for gay marriage, Cathy framed his comments in decidedly positive terms. Moreover, they were set in a context that was addressing more generally the pro-family stance of Chick-fil-a—a stance that has implications beyond the issue of gay marriage.
The Boston Herald reported that Dan Cathy said that gay marriage is “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.” In actuality, the Baptist Press report said nothing about “God’s judgment.” That phrase was taken from a radio interview recorded a month earlier on a radio talk show in Atlanta. And in that interview, Ken Coleman wanted Cathy to talk about fatherhood and family. So Cathy made some wide-ranging remarks about the family in general and about his own father in particular—remarks which had no reference to homosexuality.
Cathy also emphasized how crucial it is for children to be raised by both a mother and father. As an aside, he mentions that that’s why he believes it’s arrogant to try and redefine marriage. It’s bad for children and invites God’s judgment. Cathy never says anything about homosexuality or gay marriage explicitly. You will not find the words “gay marriage” or “same-sex marriage” anywhere in this interview. Again, I invite readers to verify this for themselves by listening to the audio below. The interview begins at the 22:00 minute mark.
I do not mean to suggest that Cathy’s position on gay marriage is unclear. It is very clear that Cathy supports traditional marriage as the union of one man and one woman. What I am suggesting is that his advocacy is understated and respectful. It is nothing like it has been reported in the media over the past week.