Unless you’ve been avoiding all forms of media, you’ve probably heard something about the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A this week. Since President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy expressed in recent interviews his support for marriage and biblical values, the family-owned company has been targeted by gay activists, boycotted by Hollywood, and rhetorically threatened with bans from elected officials in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco — which the ACLU of Illinois said Thursday is unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.
Former Arkansas governor and talk show host Mike Huckabee spoke with CitizenLink this week for a story about how his Facebook page asking people to support Chick-fil-A was temporarily deleted — and what the whole controversy has to say about the level of civil discourse and personal freedom in the new climate of political correctness. He had so many good points to make that we thought CitizenLink readers would enjoy all of it.
At the bottom of this story, you’ll see a link taking you to the CitizenLink Action Center, where you can write a note of support to the Cathy family, thanking them for standing up for their beliefs in the public square. Our executive director, Tom Minnery, will personally deliver them to Dan Cathy in the near future.
CitizenLink: How did you get involved in all this?
Mike Huckabee: This is an issue that never should have even started. But it grew when I saw that the mayor of Boston and a city council out in California were saying that they weren’t going to let Chick-fil-A come into their communities because the COO had made comments to a Christian newspaper that affirmed his view for biblical marriage. Chick-fil-A doesn’t force that view on its customers or employees. They in no way are about stuffing political messages in their chicken sacks. They sell chicken. But I believe under the First Amendment, the people who work there are entitled to a point of view, which is all in the world the COO expressed. They’re a family-owned company, they’re a wonderful company. Christians own it, and they lead it as Christians would, even closing on Sundays, which is a rather remarkable thing in this market.
But when they became the subject of some vicious, hate-filled attacks that amounted to nothing less than economic bullying by some militant gays, I realized this was not about them anymore — it’s really about whether or not people of faith can express an opinion without being demonized, viciously attacked, and having their businesses threatened.
I want to make clear: Chick-fil-A did not propose this, they didn’t promote it. They may even be uncomfortable with it. But it’s not about them — it’s really about all of us who believe that in the marketplace, we should not engage in economic terrorism. So I thought, “Why don’t we just — without having a big protest, we’re not against anything, we’re not yelling and screaming at anyone — let’s just give an affirmation of our appreciation to a company that stands by its convictions and principles. That was the genesis of making Aug. 1 “Let’s Go Eat at Chick-fil-A Day,” just to say thank you for being a company that treats its employees and customers very kindly, and that should be supported.
CL: When did you put up your Facebook invitation to the event?
MH: We put the page up Monday. It was garnering almost a million hits and over 100,000 people had signed up to say they would go to Chick-fil-A. The page had been shared by close to a million people. Then all of a sudden, without any warning, Facebook censored the page and took it down. They gave some indication to CitizenLink that the reason was because of the content — which was remarkable to us, because the content was not offensive, it was not asking anyone to do anything violent, unholy or unhealthy to anyone. It was simply expressing affirmation to the Chick-fil-A company. (Editor’s note: Facebook told CitizenLink after this interview was conducted that the invitation had triggered its spam alert, causing an employee to delete the page erroneously.)
Interestingly, while that site was pulled down, the site that the militant homosexual groups had put up, which was Same-Sex Kiss day to happen on Aug. 3 at Chick-fil-A restaurants, was left up. So we started making inquiries to Facebook, and late Tuesday night, they restored the page after about 13 hours. But it was just remarkable to us that Facebook would engage in blatant censorship of a position because it contained Christian messages, which somehow they indicated did not conform with their community standards. But those who advocated a public display of same-sex kissing in a particular restaurant — that was perfectly OK. It was just astonishing to me. And it’s why I think that Christians have got to not get angry, not scream and yell and be against, not call names or denigrate people, but just affirm the good people that seek to do the right thing and operate their business with integrity.
CL: What do you make of this whole controversy?
MH: I do think it’s a very clear indication of what we’re up against in this culture. When a person who affirms a Christian worldview — by the way, the same view that Barack Obama held until just a few months ago, when he needed the campaign contributions of the gay community, the same position that Hilary Clinton held and Joe Biden held when they ran for president — that position is somehow offensive, even though it represents the will of the people in 31 out of 31 states where it’s been on the ballot. And yet there are some radical, vitriolic, anti-Christian messages on Facebook that apparently are perfectly in keeping with Facebook’s content policy.
CL: Yes — we visited your Chick-fil-A page earlier today and realized you must not have any kind of filters set up to screen out the bad language!
MH: There’s some vile things that people say. As a believer, I’m big enough to take it. People can say whatever they want to about me. It’s not about me. They said worse things about the Lord. So if people want to take shots at me, let ‘em. I never really wanted to get in the middle of this, but I also know that when believers stand back and say nothing when their convictions are just ridiculed — and not only ridiculed but seemingly driven out of the public square — this is what ought to be frightening to us. It’s one thing for our views to be ridiculed, but to have them silenced and censored, either by economic pressure and bullying, or by just outright pulling the plug on them and not giving voice to them in a public forum — that ought to scare the daylights out of people.
Here’s what I think is just really tragic. No one suggests for a moment that people shouldn’t have the right to disagree and hold a point of view. But the people who are always saying we need to get away from hate speech, we need to be more tolerant, we need to respect diversity and shouldn’t tolerate bullying, are guilty of bullying people who are Christians, of being intolerant of people who hold to traditional worldviews and a biblical worldview, engage in the most vicious hate speech — making extraordinary personal attacks on people with whom they disagree. I just find it amazing that there is no diversity in that.
I do business with gay people. I’ve employed gay people. I have friends who are gay people. I don’t have any hatred or animosity toward people, even whose views I disagree with. And I’m not going to call them names and denigrate them. I only would ask for the same respect coming back — not only to me, but more importantly, to a business that doesn’t try to inject or invoke, or insist upon its beliefs being held by its customers or its employees, but simply says, “Even though the company doesn’t take a particular position, its executives are free to do so.” The company sells chicken. That’s what it does. And apparently, it does it pretty well. They’ve gone from one to 1,600 stores and $4 billion a year in retail sales. So they’re doing something right in the chicken business. The object of trying to put them out of business is just beyond me.
CL: One translation of the Bible says, “There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching.” Do you think we’ve crossed that line, as a country?
MH: I think the line is crossed when we go beyond saying there are points of view that may all be welcome in the marketplace and we can have a civil — sometimes maybe even unpleasant and messy — conversation about it, but it doesn’t get down into the name-calling. That’s what happens when people don’t have a rational argument. They begin to make irrational arguments.
And that’s what people need to understand: There really is a line drawn between those of us who think that all views are welcome and you put them on the ballot and people make decisions. If you win, you accept it graciously, and if you lose, you live to fight another day. But we’re now in a type of environment in which people want to bend the rules so they can affect the outcome — not because they had a predominant point of view, but because they completely censor and shut out a view they don’t agree with, and that they really can’t intellectually challenge.
That’s what I find most offensive. Instead of having an honest, rational, intellectually sound discussion about whether the COO of a company should be able to make statements, whether it’s Dan Cathy at Chick-fil-A or Howard Schultz at Starbucks — which I think is fine. If Howard Schultz wants to make statements, that’s fine. Let him do it. I’m not going to go asking for a boycott of Starbucks. This is a marketplace. If Starbucks starts writing on the side of every cup ‘We Don’t Like Christians,” then I’d have to look at it differently. But Starbucks sells coffee. Chick-fil-A sells chicken. The point of view of its senior executives and their founders is frankly their business. I just find this level of trying to destroy people’s jobs and livelihoods because they don’t agree with them — that’s very troubling, and it gets to the very heart of a kind of America that’s very different than the one we grew up with.
CL: Do you see a way back from all this? Back to a place where we can have a civil discussion about issues instead of the scorched-earth approach we’re seeing here?
MH: Christians need to respond and stand up. They don’t need to be angry, they don’t need to be vicious. We need to make sure we don’t engage in the kind of hate-filled speech that is used against us. I don’t think we need to engage in the kind of tactics of being dishonest and misrepresenting things. We just need to take a stand and express what we’re for.
I’m not anti-gay. I’ve been characterized like that in about a thousand blogs lately, but I’m not anti-gay, I’m pro-marriage. I believe in the biblical definition of marriage because I believe that historically, it forms the framework for our civilization. But I’m not against anybody. I’m able to accept that not everyone agrees with that point of view. But if they want to change the definition, then they need to understand that they’re asking to change something, and the burden is always on those who wish to change, not on those who wish to defend the status quo. That’s true whether one is in a court of law — you’re innocent until proven guilty; in a debate — the status quo stands unless the affirmative case is able to overturn it; and in the political realm — the law that is stands until a bill is passed through a legislature or through a referendum to the people that overturns it. It’s as simple as living by the rules and the standards of our very form of government and democracy.
When we start to change that, and we say, “Well, we can’t win that argument, so we’ll just close it down. We’ll censor it. We’ll delete it,” I think that’s frightening and dangerous. And if we sit back and allow that without challenging it, then we get what we deserve. Which is one day, the Catholic Church will be told they’re not welcome in Boston, because the Catholic Church takes the position of traditional marriage, takes the position of sanctity of every human life. So when is the mayor of Boston going to say he doesn’t want the Catholic Church there? Because its position, frankly, is much stronger than that of Chick-fil-A, and the Catholic Church is expressly in business for promoting those viewpoints. Chick-fil-A is primarily there to sell chicken sandwiches, and whatever their executive in another state says is irrelevant to the selling of chicken sandwiches in Boston. But if that mayor can actually threaten (people trying to open a franchise in his city) because he doesn’t agree with an executive from that company, then God help us all.
If we don’t show our support for those who are willing to take a stand, then fewer and fewer people will be willing to come out and express their points of view.
Send a note of support Chick-fil-A’s Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy through the CitizenLink Action Center.