Monday, July 30, 2012

Free Speech?

Credit for the basic thinking behind this post belongs to AR who writes the Intramuralist blog.

Consider two quotes, the first by Chic-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, the second from then presidential candidate Barrack Obama:

“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.  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.”

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.  Now, for me as a Christian – for me – for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union.  God’s in the mix.”

While both statements contain phrases that are associated with "anti-gay marriage" attitudes, and intolerance, I'm not terribly surprised only one seemed to spark outrage and controversy.  Certainly, we can theorize there has been a major change in attitudes and acceptance of gays since Obama's statement was made.  Or perhaps people read Obama's statement as insincere, and simply what he had to say to get elected.  For whatever reason, Cathy's statement seemed to ignite a firestorm, while Obama's did not.

What's great about living in the United States is that you can express your opinion without fear of governmental reprisal, and under the full protection of the law, regardless of its popularity or unpopularity.

Or can you?

I read some pretty amazing comments on Twitter following the Cathy statement -- people outraged over the intolerance and "hate" implicit in Cathy's words, people calling for a boycott of Chic-Fil-A as a result of the expression of Cathy's personal opinion, people wanting to see his head on a pole.  And with the exception of real calls to violence, those people are exercising their right of free speech, which I support 100%.  Just as I do Cathy's right to make his initial statement.  That's the way our system is supposed to work -- state your opinion free of reprisals (from the government, at least), and let the cards fall where they may.

Want to personally boycott Chic-Fil-A because you disagree with Cathy -- do it.  Want to try to organize a million of your friends to do so -- more power to you.  Want to carry a sign of protest in front of Chic-Fil-A's headquarters (or Cathy's house) -- feel free, as long as you are within the bounds of the law.

But the mayors of Boston and Chicago crossed the line when they used the power of their elected political office to attempt to injure Chic-Fil-A by denying them the right to expand in their cities.  It is not the job of the government at any level to determine the "rightness" or "wrongness" of any opinion.  Yet these mayors are using their elected offices to squash the free speech rights of Cathy.  This is a clear violation of our Constitution and what our country stands for.  And I would make the exact same statement if Cathy expressed a pro-gay marriage opinion, and the mayors of Birmingham and Salt Lake City tried to squash his right to expand in their cities.  My concern here isn't about the issue itself (a topic of lively debate), it's about the larger disregard for the Constitution.

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