I thought we might do it. I thought UrbanFaith could avoid reporting on the latest media-fueled outrage storm. But then the public relations director of Chick-fil-A died of a heart attack amidst the frenzy, the Muppets were pulled from a deal with the company, and mayors in major cities began saying they would deny building permits over Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy’s outspoken opposition to same-sex marriage.
In case you haven’t heard, Cathy, a Southern Baptist, was quoted in a Baptist Press article as saying the family-owned restaurant chain supports traditional marriage. Here’s the quote that sparked the firestorm:
“Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. ‘Well, guilty as charged,’ said Cathy when asked about the company’s position. ‘We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. … We are very much committed to that,’ Cathy emphasized. ‘We intend to stay the course,’ he said. ‘We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.’”
As the media criticism site Get Religion noted, Cathy’s views are old news, but the “offending” quote said nothing directly about same-sex marriage. However, as is often the case, there is a history behind the reaction to it. Cathy previously told a radio audience that “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,” according to The Washington Post. Those are fighting words in a nation as divided as ours is over same-sex marriage. But are they words a corporate executive should have uttered in public?
CHICKEN FIGHT: Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s embattled COO. (Photo: Stanley Leary/Newscom)
At Bloomberg Businessweek, Diane Brady compared Cathy’s judgment with that of Bill Marriott, who is chairman of the Marriott hotel chain and a Mormon. Marriott personally opposes same-sex marriage, but “has long been reluctant to impose that view on the company his father founded.” So, although his church was involved in the fight against same-sex marriage in California, neither he nor the Marriott corporation donated money to the cause. “Instead, he stepped into the drama by publicly reinforcing his company’s commitment to gay rights through domestic partners benefits and services aimed at gay couples,” Brady reported.
Conversely, she said Cathy “crossed the line in letting his faith become less about inspiration than alienation” by openly condemning the beliefs held by a lot of potential customers. “Hearing polarizing rhetoric from the pulpit is one thing. Hearing it from a man whose business rings up $4 billion in sales each year is another,” said Brady. “As an individual, Cathy has every right to express his point of view. As president, he has a responsibility to talk about how those views affect the policies of Chick-fil-A. …The controversy at Chick-fil-A is less about the beliefs in its C-suite than the judgment therein.”
Perhaps this explains why some franchise owners are now “distancing themselves” from Cathy’s statements, according to The Los Angeles Times. But, politicians-turned-pundits Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum are publicly supporting Cathy by calling for a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on Wednesday, August 1, and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin also spoke up in support of Cathy, a fact that CNN reported to a musical backdrop of Pink’s “Stupid Girls” song. And round and round it goes.
But Chick-fil-A has garnered support from some surprising sources, like a gay internet celebriity, a James Beard award winning food writer, and the American Civil Liberties Union. “The government can regulate discrimination in employment or against customers, but what the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words,” Adam Schwartz, senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, reportedly told Fox News.
Of course, there have also been passionate pleas for restraint. At Christianity Today, Caryn Rivadeneira got fired up after someone used the occasion to out Christian author Jonathan Merritt as gay. So she bought herself a chicken sandwich and admonished readers to: “Remember the Chick-fil-A when we’re ready to jump on bandwagon-y boycotts or seek to silence or shut down those who offend us or whose beliefs run counter to ours. Remember the Chick-fil-A before refusing to shop stores that say ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ Remember the Chick-fil-A before asking the Gay Pride Parade to reroute so it doesn’t disrupt church services. Remember the Chick-fil-A before you demand books be removed from high school syllabi. Remember the Chick-fil-A before ‘outing’ another person for whatever through gossip or rumor or prayer request. Remember Chick-fil-A whether or not you agree with Dan Cathy.”
Likewise, author Rachel Held Evans, who supports same-sex marriage, urged Chick-fil-A boycotters to “remember that not all Christians who speak out against gay marriage are bigots or homophobes, and calling them those names is as unjust as it is unkind.”
Somehow amidst all the fury, the internet barely noticed that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie announced that they are donating $2.5 million in support of Washington’s same-sex marriage law, which won’t go into effect unless it survives a referendum vote in November. “Amazon.com Inc. publicly supported the law earlier this year, along with other prominent Pacific Northwest businesses, including Microsoft Corp., Starbucks Corp. and Nike Inc.,” the Associated Press reported. Will Chick-fil-A supporters boycott these corporations in retaliation?
Before they do, perhaps they should remember the Disney boycotts from yesteryear. In 2005, after eight years of eschewing all things Mickey, the Southern Baptist Convention officially voted to end that endeavor. What were they protesting? US News reported that the boycotts were sparked by Disney’s involvement with the 1994 movie Priest, which was about a clergyman’s struggle over his closeted homosexuality.
“Activists for gay and lesbian causes welcomed the vote as a possible opening to what they hope will be a new dialogue with the SBC and other Christian-based opponents of gay and lesbian rights,” the article said. That was seven years ago.
What do you think?
Should Christian business leaders speak out on divisive political issues or stick to their corporate missions?
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a key component of Arizona’s controversial immigration law Monday, allowing local police to request documentation from people they suspect to be in the country illegally. It struck down “two provisions that made it a crime for an illegal immigrant to seek work or fail to register with the federal government,” NPR reported. It also ruled against “a portion of the law that allowed state and local law enforcement officers to arrest anyone based solely on the suspicion that the individual was in the country illegally.”
Governor Jan Brewer declared the ruling a victory, according to Politico. “Today is the day when the key components of our efforts to protect the citizens of Arizona, to take up the fight against illegal immigration in a balanced and constitutional way, has unanimously been vindicated by the highest court in the land,” she said. “Arizona’s and every other state’s inherent authority to protect and defend its people has been upheld.”
But the ruling “reignited concerns that the law could lead to widespread racial profiling and civil-rights violations by overzealous police targeting Hispanics, including U.S. citizens or those who are here legally,” The Arizona Republic reported. Writing at The Grio, Judith Browne Dianis said the decision is also “a mixed bag and a cautionary note for black folks” because anti-immigration laws “intrinsically include us in their broad sweep, as civil rights violations always do. ”
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law,” President Obama said in a statement. “What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem.”
His administration went further. “Just hours after the Supreme Court issued its decision on SB1070, federal officials said they would immediately rescind a controversial federal-state partnership that uses local cops in Arizona to detain immigrants,” Colorlines reported.
Rival Mitt Romney took the opposite approach, according to The Washington Post. “I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to states, not less. And the states, now under this decision, have less authority, less latitude, to enforce immigration law,” he reportedly said at a fundraiser in Scottsdale.
The ruling could be a “boon” to the president, but Romney loses no matter what, said Howard Fineman at The Huffington Post. “Praise the court and [Romney] offends Latinos; fault it and he offends social conservatives who have made a crackdown on the undocumented a key Tea Party plank. … Since possession of a valid driver’s license is, under the Arizona law, sufficient proof of citizenship, the ruling will force legal residents and citizens to get them if they don’t have them. There’s no better place to run a registration drive than at or near a DMV. Most of those voters are likely to be Democrats, or at least Obama supporters,” Fineman wrote.
Either way, “Many politicians – and Americans in general – don’t understand the complex contours of Hispanic voters in America,” The Christian Science Monitor reported. The problem begins with the term Hispanic, which was reportedly “manufactured by Congress in 1976 to be an umbrella term that applies to all Americans of Spanish descent.”
Speaking of Hispanics, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference issued a statement stating, in part, that the Court “initiated the process of establishing a legal firewall against draconian measures as it pertains to immigration” and conveyed “a clear message that 21st century jurisprudence will not tolerate measures that polarize and segregate our communities.”
Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform also issued a statement, from Jim Wallis, that said, in part, “The decision to strike down key provisions of this legislation is a victory for everyone in the faith community who seeks to follow the Bible’s call for concern for the vulnerable and ‘stranger’ among us. Arizona’s immoral legislation threatened families, harmed children, and made it difficult for law enforcement to safeguard the communities they swore to protect; it remains important to ensure that any remaining parts of the legislation are never used to justify racial profiling by local police.”
The American Civil Liberties Union will devote $8.7 million to fight expansion of “show me your papers” laws in other states, its Executive Director Anthony D. Romero announced Monday. The ACLU will “aggressively battle any state’s attempts to enact copycat legislation while also fighting the ‘corrosive effects’ of existing anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and five other states,” its statement said.
It may be an uphill battle. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 55% of likely voters wanted SB1070 upheld, while only 26% wanted it overturned. Nineteen percent were undecided about the law.
What do you think?
Did the U.S. Supreme Court make the right decision?
Mixed Review from Justices
After hearing arguments Wednesday about SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law, the United States Supreme Court justices seemed inclined to uphold some parts of the law and block others, the Chicago Tribune reported. The justices said they “saw no problem with requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people who are stopped,” the Tribunereported, but “were troubled by parts of the Arizona law that made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to not carry documents or seek work.”
S.B. 1070 is ‘Ethically Bankrupt’ and ‘Immoral’
“This legislation is not just ethically bankrupt but undermines basic Christian values and American ideals. The court will decide whether it is legal, but it is already clear it isn’t moral,” wrote Jim Wallis and the Rev. Max Rodus at The Huffington Post.
It’s Really About Fear, Power, and Freedom
At CNN.com, Ruben Navarrette Jr. said the law is primarily about fear, power, and freedom: Fear because “the realization that whites would soon become a statistical minority in Arizona just as they are in California, Texas and New Mexico” was the fuel that fed SB 1070, “or as local activists have dubbed it: ‘The Mexican Removal Act.'”; power because the law “essentially deputizes local and state police”and “gives them the power to act as surrogates for Immigration and Customs Enforcement”; and, freedom because “U.S.-born Latinos should be free from harassment. They shouldn’t have to prove they belong in their own country.”
Latinos Are Fleeing the State
“Whatever the outcome,” “much damage will already have been done,” writes J.D. Tuccille at Reason. His wife is a pediatrician in Northern Arizona and he says some of her Latino patients won’t make the trip to Phoenix or Tuscon to see specialists when she refers them because they “have chosen to forego that particular gauntlet of crewcut peril and either put off treatment or seek it out of state.” Tuccille says 100,000 Hispanics have left the state since the passage of S.B. 1070.
Damaged Reputation or Inspiration?
Likewise, the Los Angeles Times reported that the law has damaged Arizona’s reputation. It cites a study by the Center for American Progress that found conventions cancelations after passage of SB 1070 “cost the state more than $23 million in lost tax revenue and at least $350 million in direct spending by conventions’ would-be attendees.” But, the American Civil Liberties Union reportsthat “after the law passed in 2010, two dozen copycat bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country; five passed in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah.” Lawsuits have been filed in all six states by the ACLU and other civil rights organizations, it says.
Legal Issues ‘Deliberately Misread’
National Review went meta with an editorial in support of the law that said the legal issues surrounding S.B. 1070 are being deliberately misread. “The Justice Department’s case rests instead on a willful misreading of federal statute, and it reinterprets the requirement that states not preempt federal immigration laws as a requirement that states harmonize their own laws with federal immigration enforcement practices — or in this case, with the lack thereof,” the editorial said.
A Moot Point in Face of Immigration Decline?
Meanwhile, the number of Mexican immigrants has “dropped significantly for the first time in decades,” the Associated Press reported, because many haven’t been able to find work in the U.S. and have returned to Mexico. Sixty percent of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are from Mexico, the article said. “Roughly 6.1 million unauthorized Mexican immigrants were living in the U.S. last year, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007, according to the Pew Hispanic Center study released Monday,” AP reported.
What do you think?
Should the U.S. Supreme Court uphold or overturn S.B. 1070?