Thursday, August 02, 2012

Of opinions and chicken sandwiches and God's mercy

The local news today is full of stories of lines of cars circling blocks around local Chick-Fil-A's, yesterday, and packed restaurants with supporters quoted as standing up for the right to have an opinion.

Even Glenn Greenwald thinks Chick-Fil-A is entitled to its opinion, especially when governmental power is going to be used to quash that opinion.  And I suppose, in that sense, this is Skokie, Illinois all over again, and whether or not the Nazis have a right to a parade permit.

But I do wonder how many people would think Chick-Fil-A had a right to their opinion if that opinion was against mixed race marriages, or what in 1967 we called "miscegenation."  I don't have the statistics in front of me, but I do know "Star Trek" featured the first "interracial kiss" on television, between Uhura and Kirk (a forced kiss, but nonetheless).  At least, it's widely touted as the first interracial kiss on American TeeVee, and it would be decades before black and white couples would be shown at all (and then mostly in movies.  I can't think of a TV show that regularly features a mixed race (i.e., black and white; Asian or Hispanic seems to be okay, but not black and white) couple.  Maybe it's out there and I'm not familiar with it.

So what if Chick-Fil-A ownership was against miscegenation?  What if they were against women voting, or equal rights for women?  What if they based their opposition to the Voting Rights Act on Biblical principles?  Or if they objected to child labor laws, based on their religious beliefs?  Mother Jones became the name of  a magazine because she led a Children's Crusade to Teddy Roosevelt's summer retreat, demanding the then-President back laws restricting child labor.  TR told them to go pound sand.  Not as recent as Loving v. Virginia, but still within the 20th century.  Would support for Newt Gingrich's insane ideas on child labor be just an opinion?  Would a Biblically based opposition to Loving v. Virginia just be an "opinion"?  Would open racial hatred and support for white supremacy (based, again, on the Bible; there are plenty of people who can do that) be an "opinion," and nothing more?

Maybe it's a free speech issue when city mayors try to throw their weight around and decide who is acceptable, and who isn't, in their business communities.  But would anyone be as upset if Rahm Emmanuel had objected to a white supremacist trying to open a fast food franchise in Chicago?  Or would we be screaming at the ACLU for defending the rights of white supremacist to sell bad food at cheap prices?


  1. For the life of me I really don't understand what the Chick-fil-A controversy is all about.

    Its president, a Baptist,says in an interview with a Baptist paper that marriage should stay between male and female. That's what you would expect a Baptist to say.

    It's also what the Catholic Church teaches. And the Orthodox. And the Church of England. And most Protestant Churches. Even the Book of Common Prayer of our local Episcopalians, who famously gave the green light to a "provisional" blessing of same-sex relationships this summer, still reserves marriage to the relationship between a man and a woman.

    So this guy expresses an opinion which reflects the understanding of most Christian churches, and (I think) the law of 45 out of 50 states, and suddenly he's a bigot whose business has to be shunned? I really don't get it.

    For the record, it's a good chicken sandwich, for fast food, though I haven't had one for years. And if I am ever hauled up on charges of collaboration with bigots, I suppose I can plead that I sent much more money to Amazon than I ever sent to Chick-fil-A.

  2. I think most of those churches upheld the right of the state to ban interracial marriages, too.

    Just sayin'....

    And apparently it's not "just an opinion":

    Now we get to why there is such outrage at Chick-fil-A. Two weeks before Cathy did that Baptist Press interview, Equality Matters revealed that the company’s charity, The WinShape Foundation, had donated nearly $5 million to anti-gay causes between 2003 and 2010. While the company welcomes all families to its fast-food outlets with open arms to “eat mor chikin,” behind the scenes it is actively working to deny fundamental rights to same-sex families who want nothing more than to share fully in the American dream. In short, Cathy has been putting his money where his mouth is.

    Two further points: Not all churches were opposed to slavery, either; didn't make it right because a majority thought it was okay. And the UCC has supported same sex-marriage since before I went to seminary. I'm not sure being in the minority on that issue made them morally wrong.

    I really think the question is not what the majority approves, or disapproves. If what is "right" is only a matter of opinion, or of what is popular, we are in a world of hurt, indeed.

  3. "I think most of those churches upheld the right of the state to ban interracial marriages, too."

    I don't think so. Obviously not the Catholic Church. Nor the Orthodox. Nor the Church of England. A number of American churches went along with it, but that' because of the peculiar pathology of the legacy of American chattel slavery.

    I didn't mean to imply that something should be held because the majority holds it, only to note the strangeness that a belief (which I certainly share) rather squarely in the religious and legal mainstream is overwhelmingly treated as some sort of outlying, fundamentalist craziness.

  4. I don't think so. Obviously not the Catholic Church. Nor the Orthodox. Nor the Church of England. A number of American churches went along with it, but that' because of the peculiar pathology of the legacy of American chattel slavery.

    Sorry, let me clarify: I doubt there was any open defiance of it in the states where it was banned. That was my point.

    I could perform a same-sex wedding here in Texas, today, although the state wouldn't recognize it (nor have they criminalized such marriages, either). I don't know that I'd do it if it meant going to jail, to be honest (which is what happened in the Loving case; although the couple was criminalized, not the pastor; so maybe I'd be off the hook). But that was, more or less, my point: what churches approve of, or do not actively oppose, often has more to do with state power than moral power.

    And I'm not sure the position of Chick-Fil-A's owner isn't "fundamentalist craziness." Because the issue isn't what churches will approve (some churches won't approve non-member marriages, and here I'm thinking of Protestants like the MO Synod Lutherans, who can be quite restrictive about what their members do), but what the state should, or should not, approve.

    Mr. Cathy's opinion is not about what his religious denomination should do, but what the government should do. If the government can create a married couple (and they clearly can), can the government refuse that state based on gender (rather than age or consanguinity)? That's really the issue here.

    Whether the churches think such a state can be created, or not, is irrelevant. IMHO, of course. :-)

  5. Let me amend (again): Mr. Cathy may think his position is about morality, but he might as well complain that interracial couples shouldn't be allowed to marry.

    It's an opinion he is entitled to; but obviously neither opinion is widely supported (even the people on the news this morning insisted they weren't homophobes, they just wanted Mr. Cathy to be allowed to have his opinion. Thus do we try to slice things so thinly they have only one side.).

    Mr. Cathy's objection is not that the UCC (among other churches) allows for same-sex marriage. His complaint is that the state does, or may, allow it; and more pointedly, that Barack Obama is in support of it.

    It's a political issue, IOW, not a matter of what he approves of for his family, or his church.

  6. "Mr. Cathy's opinion is not about what his religious denomination should do, but what the government should do."

    But how is going beyond one's religion, to recommending government action, illigitimate for a Christian?

    Just to take an obvious example, here is what Vatican II's Gaudium and Spes said about it:

    "...the family, in which the various generations come together and help one another grow wiser and harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life, is the foundation of society. All those, therefore, who exercise influence over communities and social groups should work efficiently for the welfare of marriage and the family. Public authority should regard it as a sacred duty to recognize, protect and promote their authentic nature, to shield public morality and to favor the prosperity of home life. The right of parents to beget and educate their children in the bosom of the family must be safeguarded."

    I know that you wouldn't agree with the Catholic Church's notion of marriage's authentic nature, as set out in Vatican II, but surely you'd agree that Christians have a right and responsibility to advocate for their conceptions of justice and the common good in the public sphere?

    Again, I understand the disagreement. I just don't get the hubbub.

  7. Well, now we're back to the customers in the news reports this morning: they aren't homophobes, they just think Mr. Cathy is entitled to have an opinion.

    I do, too; and he's going to get pushback on that opinion. I'm not going to boycott Chick Fil A because I don't eat there anyway. But I didn't go out of my way to go there yesterday to support his right to have an opinion, because I found that opinion offensive.

    Again, had he come out against mixed race marriage, would you still not get the hubbub? To me, the real question is: what is the issue, and why, and on what grounds is one thing just opinion, and another truly offensive to civilized sensibilities?

    Or, in other words, why is mixed race marriage okay, but same-sex marriage is bad?

    And no, I don't recognize the legitimacy of the argument put forward by Vatican II. But that isn't to say my argument, or theirs, won't, or shouldn't, create a hubbub. Especially if I'm going to put my money where my mouth is, as Mr. Cathy has done. According to Mr. Capehart, the response of Mayor Emmanuel and others was based on that, not on what he said in an interview (the former (his donations) came to light because of the latter (the interview)).

    So the hubbub has less to do with someone's opinion, and more to do with how he tries to use money to make his opinion law. That is a legitimate point of controversy.

    As for the opinion, obviously it is a legitimate point of controversy, too. As I say, no one on the news reports I heard supported his position, just his right to have it. That's midway between outright supporting racism, and outright condemning it; and I seem to recall American society was stuck in that spot for most of my childhood.

    Which is what is most interesting, to me.

  8. Got to agree with Rick on this. While any one has a right to boycott a business for their views, politicians do not have the right to block the opening of any law abiding business in their state, town or neighborhood. The Catholic church does not support gay marriage but I don't hear any of our local alderman protesting the many Catholic churches in their neighbornoods. For that matter, Illinois law allows foe civil unions, not "gay" marriages.

    If people want to protest, go ahead. If they want to change the laws, elect politicians who will support their views. And if bigoted people want to open a business, that is their right until the laws (not some blow hard alderman) says they can't.

    Don (in a Chicago suburb)

  9. There is the incumbent governor of Maine having the court uphold his removal of a labor mural on the basis of "government speech" which makes me extremely uneasy. In that case, as I understand, the removal of the mural violated the contract the state entered into with the artist, part of the commission.

    I'm not wildly enthusiastic about the Mayors throwing their weight against Chick-Fil-A, though anyone who believes that doesn't happen constantly without being explicitly stated, especially on the local level, doesn't know local government and how it really works. As noted in the excellent post, it usually "depends".

  10. I don't think Rahm was wise.

    I'm just interested in whether people would think Rahm was wise if the owner of the chain was an avowed white supremacist.

    Change the facts, change the outcome, as my Torts professor said.

    Or would it? That's really the point of interest to me, and the reason I mention the Loving case. If Don Cathy were against mixed race marriage, would we all say "Oh, well, he's entitled to his opinion"?

    Somehow, I think not.

  11. Interestingly, if you hunt around (as I did yesterday), it doesn't take long on Google to find people who STILL insist the Bible bans mixed race marriages, and that the Loving decision is an offense against God.

    Not a mainstream opinion, obviously. But it's still out there.

    Just sayin'.....

  12. Windhorse11:16 AM

    There's probably a sociological formula that can be arrived at to describe why at certain times fewer people would come out to support an anti-miscegenation CEO than an anti-gay-marriage CEO, something along the lines of:

    "The likelihood of any given number of social conservatives consuming chicken sandwiches to spite liberals (w) is inversely proportionate to the settled case law around the issue in question (l) multiplied by the perceived number of recent affronts to their cultural sensibilities in the areas of race (r), sexual expression (s), and public assistance (p)."

    Not a math guy but there you go. If the value of the sum of (r), (s), and p gets high enough it can overwhelm (l) and pretty soon Don Cathy is a billionaire while Mike Huckabee is on the Wolf Blitzer show explaining that scripture doesn't allow blacks and whites to marry and how the Supreme Court got it wrong.

  13. Interestingly, if you hunt around (as I did yesterday), it doesn't take long on Google to find people who STILL insist the Bible bans mixed race marriages - RMJ

    There is a group called the Phineas Priesthood, which opposes, among other things, interracial marriage. They chose their name based on the actions recorded in the Book of Numbers of Pinechas. Ironically, the origin of the Hebrew name Pinechas is from the Egyptian word for "The Nubian" (the same root, interestingly, as the term/name Nehesi).

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