If You’re Going to Hate, Be Brave About It

Once again, the U.S.finds itself in the midst of a polarizing debate over a contentious social issue; gay marriage and Chick-fil-A (CFA). I don’t need to waste space rehashing the particulars of how we got here in the CFA debate. However, I will take up a little space laying down what I think is an important issue being lost in the debate: the inability of people who hate to be brave about it.

To be certain, I don’t believe in what some big-city mayors and aldermen are doing to CFA by restricting the chain from opening restaurants. And, I do believe that the First Amendment protects the rights of CFA, the Ku Klux Klan, Westboro Baptist, and others to say anything they want, no matter how nasty it may be. I also support the ACLU which, while it does not agree with CFA’s stance in this issue, supports the right of the chain to say what it believes in.

However, there are other important issues in play here. Let’s take the Klan for a minute. It is one of the most loathsome organizations on the planet. Yet, to give its members credit, they are open in their hatred of Jews, blacks, homosexuals and others. They are easy to spot and when they mobilize to raise their voices the vast majority of us who oppose everything they believe in can make sure we raise our voices even louder. We know where they stand. We know what they believe. There is no gray area with the Klan. No subtlety. No nuance.

CFA, on the other hand, has used subtlety and nuance to frame its opposition to gay marriage as “support” of traditional marriage, misleading many who believe the chain is now being unfairly persecuted for its beliefs. As I’ve watched the debate play out in print, online and in social media, I’ve wondered how many people standing in line to eat at CFA realize that the chain actively supports Exodus International, which advocates that you can be “cured” of homosexuality, as though it’s some kind of disease.

Or, that CFA supports the Family Research Council, which fights vigorously against civil rights for the LGBT community. So, by spending their dollars at CFA, people are, by association, actively supporting those other groups. While they may claim to be “supporting traditional marriage” by supporting CFA, they are also supporting groups that advocate hatred of others, plain and simple.

Is supporting CFA really about “supporting traditional marriage” or is it just a smokescreen to deny civil rights and equality to gay people? If you’ve been standing in line for its chicken lately, or making anonymous comments on blogs supporting CFA, what are you really supporting?

Do you know anyone whose “traditional marriage” is threatened by the possibility that two gay people may get married? I certainly don’t. Given the divorce rate in this country, it might be wiser for people to spend a little more time working on their own marriage and a little less time fighting against two committed adults who want to get married.

Let’s be clear. I will defend to the end CFA’s First Amendment right to say what it believes in, no matter how vile I may find that belief. But why their subtlety? Why the nuance? Why doesn’t CFA, and others who are against gay marriage or gay people in general, just come right out and say that? Why their cowardice?

Don’t use religion as a backstop. Don’t use the Bible as justification. Use plain language. Just be brave and say, “We hate gay people. We don’t like how they live. We don’t like what they do. And, we don’t want them to be able to get married.” Why don’t they have the guts to stand up for what they believe in, instead of cowering behind the argument that they are “supporting traditional marriage?”

They can say it and we can decide if we want to buy their chicken. And, if they do find the guts to say it, I will assert that we have a right— no, a responsibility—as citizens in a society to say, with an even louder voice, that hatred of others has no place here.

I’ve never spent a dollar at Chick-fil-A and I certainly never will. I support the LGBT community. I support gay marriage. I will fight for equal rights for all citizens in our society and I will teach my children to do the same. And, my name’s on the top of this column.

No subtlety there. And, certainly, no nuance.



  1. Kkieper

    BRAVO, Wester! Very proud to know you and stand with you on this one!


  2. Chuck Sweeny

    You’re comparing a fast food company with traditional views — views shared by the vast majority of the world — with the Ku Klux Klan and the idiots of the so called Westboro church — it’s all one family.
    This, sir, is a stretch. I continue to be amazed and appalled at the intolerance of the left.

  3. I think I’m with Chuck on this one. I don’t personally care what consenting adults do in their personal lives. I do care that this country is built on a foundation of freedom of beliefs and expression of beliefs. Support of one side of a position is always contrary to the other side of the position and does not necessarily imply subterfuge nor hate. I don’t like it when people lie – this doesn’t mean I hate liars. I may also say that I prefer honesty – this doesn’t mean I am hiding my dislike of lying. The CFO of CFA doesn’t like gay marriage. So be it. The other great thing about our country is the power of consumer choice. If you support the CEO of CFA, then buy their sandwiches; if you don’t, then don’t. Or, if your like me and hungry for a chicken sandwich, and they have a good one, then buy it for what it is – a chicken sandwich.

  4. Danielle

    Just curious….up until two months ago, did you find President Obama to be hate-filled? Did you vote for him? Because if you did, you actively supported someone whom you now define as hateful since he also supported traditional marriage. Have to agree with Chuck. You’re stretching the realm of reality here….

  5. Thanks for reading the blog and for the comments.

    Traditional marriage is not under attack in this country, despite what some groups and media outlets might have you believe. Do you know anyone who is against traditional marriage? Are there any organized groups out there actively fighting to prevent men and women from getting married? If there are, I’m not aware of any.

    On the other hand, there are groups, such as the two I cited, that are actively fighting against civil rights for a certain group of people in our society. Don’t take my word for it. Do some of your own research on Exodus International and the Family Research Council. Find out why the Southern Poverty Law Center recently classified the FRC as a “hate group.”

    It’s great to align with CFA and buy its chicken and I have no personal problem with those who do that. However, it’s disingenuous for people to stand in line, or “stand with Chick-fil-A,” and pretend that what they are standing for is traditional marriage, an institution that is in no danger of harm. Again, when you stand with CFA and you hand over your dollars, what you are also doing is supporting the groups they support. Period. You can’t have it both ways.

    I don’t hate anyone and didn’t imply that at any point in the column. What I’m troubled by is the cowardice of those who are unwilling to say what they really believe without hiding behind anonymity or, in this specific case, under the cloak of “supporting traditional marriage.”

    I disagreed with President Obama’s stance and I’m glad he’s changed his mind. However, I didn’t see him actively fighting against civil rights for gays or supporting groups that do.

    As for the “intolerance on the left”. . . if it’s considered intolerant to take issue with those who would seek to deny a basic right to someone, then I suppose those who are against CFA’s stance are “guilty as charged,” to quote the CFA CEO. Were those who fought for women’s rights intolerant? Were those who pushed for civil rights for blacks intolerant? There’s a distinct difference between “not liking” something and actively working to prevent someone from taking advantage of a basic right afforded to others.

  6. Danielle

    Thank you for the clarification. I myself didn’t go to CFA, first of all, because it’s too far away, second, because they make everything in peanut oil and I’m allergic, and third, because while I am not ‘pro-gay marriage’ in that I don’t actively campaign for it or give to organtizations that do, I am also not anti-gay marriage. I believe they should be able to obtain a union that has all the same benefits of a traditional marriage. At the same time, I do not believe that gay marriage is right, mostly because of my religious beliefs. That being said, I wouldn’t use this as a basis to deny someone else the rights that I enjoy as long as they are not hurting anyone.

    I would posit that many of the people going to CFA don’t actually hate gay people or want to deny them the right to a union similar to marriage. I think most of them reacted in a knee-jerk way that was exacerbated by the media’s rhetoric on the subject. All most of them heard was that their freedom of religion was under fire and they drove however far they needed to wait hours to get a freakin’ sandwich.

  7. Frank Haney

    Wester, as always – your posts make people think. I do not always agree with you; however, I do like that you are out-front on issues that you are passionate about. Social issues are so divisive these days…… so emotional…. occasionally drowning out debate of other issues of great importance.

    To me, I see inherent conflict in both liberal and conservative social views – many liberals fight for equality for adults but are not motivated to fight for the rights of an unborn child. On the flip side, many conservatives take a strong pro-life stance but are silent when it comes to the death penalty. I struggle with this.

    As a person of faith, I know where my Church stands. And, on many issues, I stand with my Church. That being said, I have often wondered why religious and political leaders spend so much time talking about what people should / shouldn’t do in the bedroom and very little time challenging parents to be better dads and moms. There are way too many unloved kids in our community and our country today. There are way too many Gen X and Gen Y men who are dropping the ball as fathers. The social, emotional, and economic impact of this is crippling. If you show me a business owner who talks about this, then I will go stand in line to eat one of his or her chicken sandwiches.

    To be honest, I tend to agree with Chuck Sweeney’s and Scott Anderson’s points. But, even when I struggle with one of your positions, I am a fan of your writing. And as a fan, I thought you were more on-point in your follow-up response. I do have one question though: What would have happened if a conservative politician pulled the same stunt over a business owner taking a liberal position?

  8. Thanks for the comment, Frank. I always value your perspective on issues, and your leaadership in NR and you make some good points here.

    I agree that religious and political leaders do spend way too much time talking about what people do in their bedrooms, as well as with their bodies for that matter. And, I’m always fascinated by the contradiction inherent in many conservatives’ stances on those two issues. They want government out of people’s lives except when it comes to the bedroom and what women do with their bodies. Can’t quite figure that one out.

    However, this isssue isn’t about what’s going on in the bedroom, though, nor is it about parenting. It’s about the right of two committed adults to get married. Popular opinion is moving toward gay marriage and it’s most likely that trend will continue as the population ages. I think it’s inevitable that it will become more widespread as the years progress.

    Further, I would have appreciated your perspective, as well as Scott’s and Chuck’s, on what you think about Exodus and the FRC, two organizations directly supported by CFA. In many writings that I’ve been following, those two organizations are being completely ignored.

    As to your question, I’m not quite sure I’m following it. As I stated in the original post, I’m not in favor of the political leaders who are trying to restrict CFA from opening more stores. So, if a liberal business owner took a stand against a basic societal right, I would expect people would rise up and protest as many of those who are in favor of gay marriage have done here. I would love to see some examples of that, if there are some out there.

    The right has put forth the premise that they are “under attack” for their religious views or that this is an attack on traditional marriage. It’s a brilliant PR strategy because it shifts the focus away from their true stance which is to fight against gay marriage. It’s been very effective, it’s shielded CFA and the chain is riding the strategy to record sales.

  9. Frank Haney

    Part I – Social issues and Next Rockford
    Wester, I don’t mean to hijack your post but wanted to add a comment about how your post fits into to the scope of a Next Rockford blog. Individual members can share their personal views on this blog. Although I 100% support this practice, I want to draw a distinction between individual positions vs. group positions. On occasion, readers of this blog have confused the two. To be clear, I am a huge proponent of individuals sharing their personal views on this blog and look forward to reading future posts….. even if I disagree with every word being written.

    Wester, does a great job of making your case. I however, am not his conservative counterpoint. I am not conservative enough. To readers of the Next Rockford blog, the person who thinks a conservative point of view is missing, then by all means, log-in and be heard. I welcome it. And, if you know my friend Wester, he welcomes it as well.

    Personally, I am more conservative than liberal on economic issues and slightly more liberal than conservative on social issues. I think there are a number of people like me when it comes to this. Also worth mentioning, is that my opinions evolve overtime as I grow and evolve as a person. I guess this is a long way of saying that in addition to social issues being divisive, most people don’t fit in a box politically. That is exactly why some Next Rockford members get nervous over topics like this. They don’t want the group branded as overly liberal or conservative and then, through affiliation, they would be as well. This is why we take individual positions on social issues (which you have done a great job of in your post) and not collective positions the way we have on more local issues.

    My two cents on Next Rockford: the strength of Next Rockford is that, politically speaking, we are a big tent. Some of the most liberal AND conservative Gen Y and Gen Xers in town are part of Next Rockford. This is critical in that it will take the work of many types of people to move our community forward. I continue to learn from, am challenged by, and draw energy from this unique dynamic. Even though we can be divided on issues at times, our overall focus is on issues, projects, and opportunities that we have collective energy for and want to rally behind.

    Part II – Response to your last post
    Thanks for the feedback Wester. As for my perspective on Exodus, I am aware of their existence only through this blog post. If they are as you say (not doubting you), then I would have as much in common with them as you would – very little. It does seem that both the left and right are driven by their extremes these days. This troubles me.

    But let’s call a spade a spade, the CFA story didn’t become national news because of Exodus or even that a conservative chicken sandwich maker restated his view of marriage for the 100th time. This became a national story when an elected official looked to punish a company for the social views of the owner. This also hurts consumers (less choice) and employees (less opportunity). This is scary stuff. I am glad we agree on that. This is why some conservatives might say their views are, in fact, under attack. The take-away is – if I state my beliefs on gay marriage, then the government is going to try to cripple my business if they disagree with me. Again, this is scary stuff. This DOES silence debate (fear has a way of doing that) which is a basic right. Wester, I know you are not for this and wouldn’t want people to think otherwise. On the other side of the political spectrum, many conservatives, excluding some extremists on the far right, don’t hate gay people. They wouldn’t want people to think this either.

    Yes, some conservatives are way more concerned about the rapidly expanding role of government in our lives than they are about gay marriage. It is a matter of focus. Most conservatives who ate a chicken sandwich this week did so with the following intention: I eat my chicken sandwich because I am upset with a political official for even thinking that this was an appropriate thing to do. Very, very few conservatives took the following position: I eat a chicken sandwich because I hate gay people and I support extreme right organizations that are as extreme as some on the right.
    Your reference to a “brilliant PR strategy” is spot-on but one-sided. I actually saw a picture of a two nuns dressed in full garb handing out chicken sandwiches. It wasn’t a coincidence that dozens of tv cameras happened to show-up. It was a well-orchestrated PR event. But there are a lot of PR strategies at play here. BOTH sides went into a PR frenzy over this. How come the only nice thing I have heard liberals and conservatives say to each other is to congratulate the other side for a “brilliant PR strategy”? This, of course, is another way of saying “you are full of it but you tell the story well” or “you have a huge war chest of funds to push an evil agenda.”

  10. Wester – I’m glad you suggested I learn more about Exodous and FRC.

    As with most of our more complicated societal debates, this one is difficult because there are not objective agreements and instead a wide range of beliefs and opinions.

    Let me re-iterate that my personal stance is that what consenting adults do in their private lives is their business. My personal belief system, as a Christian and a student of the bible, is that same sex relationships are inappropriate. But, I am also libertarian enough to not project my personal belief system onto others. As long as it does not harm others, then you can do whatever you want.

    Societies are always challenged with determining right and wrong and the appropriate legal rules and structures to deal with those determinations. On the far ends of the right/wrong spectrum there is strong consensus. Nearly all of us believe that murder is wrong and therefore support a system that defines it as illegal and takes action when it occurs. On the other end of the spectrum, nearly all of us believe helping a little, old lady across the street is right, and we support and encourage this behavior. Where it gets tricky is in the middle, where there is not strong consensus (same sex unions, abortion, marijuana use, gun use, meat eating, etc.).

    Advocates of both sides of these middle spectrum issues have often attacked the other side as wrong, hateful, ignorant, etc. This behavior is passionate because it is based on core belief systems. They really believe the other side is wrong, both in choice and action. However, it no more appropriate for a pro-life supporter to call a pro-choice supporter wrong, or hateful, or ignorant than it is for someone who thinks we shouldn’t help little, old ladies across the street to call a Boy Scout wrong, or hateful, or ignorant for helping a little, old lady.

    From what I have studied, it appears to me that Exodous is a group who “believes” that same sex attractions are contrary to Christian morality and that they can be managed through therapy and support systems. I did not pick up anything that suggested hate of LGBT people. I understand that there are people who strongly disagree that same sex attractions are immoral and that those attractions can be managed or cured.

    From what I have studied, it appears to me that the Family Resource Council is a group who “believes” that same sex unions are contrary to Christian morality and therefore are advocates for heterosexual marriages. I did not pick up anything that suggested hate of LGBT people. I understand that there are people who strongly disagree that same sex unions are immoral.

    Now, the labeling of these groups as hate-groups was done by the Southern Poverty Law Center. I have not found anything that justifies them as the qualifiers of hate groups apart from their long history of racial civil right support. I think that as a society we have pretty strong consensus that on the right/wrong spectrum racial and religious discrimination is wrong (our Muslim citizens, and now Sheiks, may disagree). And certainly any organization that advocates violence against another group would have most of us agreeing that behavior is wrong. The SPLC has done an excellent job of identifying groups that believe in racial or religious discrimination and advocate violence based on that discrimination as hate groups. This includes groups of many races and religions (white, black, Christian, Islam, Jewish, etc.).

    It appears that the SPLC has identified Exodous and FRC as hate groups simply because they do not believe in and advocate against same sex attraction or same sex unions. I do not believe this passes the threshold of hate group. Branding an opposing view as a hate group just because they have an opposing view is not appropriate and should not be tolerated.

    I am sure there are individuals within those groups who have been hateful. I grew up on a ranch and was in 4-H and one time a member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals came to the fair and told the kids in angry, cursing language how evil they were for raising animals for consumption. It was very hateful behavior. I don’t believe PETA is a hate group. (I am going to use my omnivore teeth, especially canines, to rip a juicy steak tonight.)

    So, I still do not see any hateful behavior from the CFO of CFA. I also still do not see that using the term traditional marriage is hiding a belief that same sex union is immoral. It is very common that groups use positive naming and messaging to describe their side. This is why one side of the abortion issue calls themselves Pro-Life instead of Forcers of Morality on Women’s Bodies; or another side calls themselves Pro-Choice instead of Fetal Baby Killers.

    I think a guy expressed his beliefs and has donated money (a very small amount to Exodous and FRC) in support of his beliefs. I believe he made a public statement about his beliefs.

    As I said originally, each citizen may now choose to support or not support his business based on agreement or disagreement with those beliefs, or set beliefs aside and choose based on product quality, service, and value.

    On my belief spectrum, a mayor who states that a business is not welcome in a community based on comments about a belief system that is not contrary to any of our laws is just plain wrong (and possibly hateful).

  11. This is the beauty of your first amendment freedom of speech rights….go USA! I still love a CFA chicken sandwich and waffle fries!

  12. Danielle

    Wow Scott. Excellent response.

  13. Hey Scott,
    Thanks for continuing the discussion and for doing it in such a thoughtful manner. Like I said to Frank, I appreciate your leadership in NR and the blog writing that you do as well. This might be one of these topics we need to get some people around a table somewhere with a few tasty beverages. 🙂

    One of my points in the original column was that too many people dance around taking stands on issues. It’s pretty easy, in my opinion, to talk about right and wrong and to defend hate speech as merely “beliefs” that others hold. As I stated several times, I will defend anyone’s First Amendment right to say what they believe, no matter how loathsome I think it is.

    However, it appears that, in your latest comment, you are dancing around the issue without taking a stance. You say that you think same-sex relationships are inappropriate but that what consenting adults do in their private lives is OK. And then you say that you don’t project your personal belief system on others but that if it doesn’t harm others, then you can do whatever you want. Maybe I’m not understanding it but it appears that you are trying to have it both ways.

    In this case, based on what I wrote in my original blog post, CFA, the FRC and others are actively working to deny a basic societal right to gay people. They are not just sitting by and “believing” that gay marriage is wrong; they are actively working to deny it by allocating money and influencing policymakers to make policy that denies marriage to gays. CFA has not been charged with refusing to serve gay people or refusing to hire them. It seems clear, based on what I’ve seen that they don’t discriminate in that vein. However, make no mistake, the groups they support financially are actively discriminatory in their beliefs and in the policies they are pushing.

    Do you believe that they are right to do that in this case? Or, are you simply arguing that it’s OK for them to have that belief, which some may support and some may not? There is a big distinction here. If it’s the latter, then I agree with you, as I certainly respect others’ beliefs. However, if it’s the former, then just come out and say that you are OK with them trying to prevent gays from marrying. You can say it and I’ll respect you for saying that.

    Again, it’s easy to say that you support someone’s right to say anything they want. The challenge on these important topics is to address the specific issue at hand and render an opinion on whether you believe it’s right or wrong. Is it OK to “believe” in the Klan’s right to say that whites are the superior race but not to work against them for believing that? Or, should we actively say “no, you’re wrong,” and work to fight against what is clearly a hatred of those not like them?

    I was also a little perplexed by your apparent brush-off of the Southern Poverty Law Center in your initial sentence in that graph. With the group’s long and active history of working for civil rights and against hate, details of which are available in numerous sources, I was surprised that you have “not found anything that justifies them as the qualifiers of hate groups?” If that group is not qualified to make such a distinction, I’m not sure which group is.

    And, your final statement seems to imply that a mayor who is trying to restrict a business from entering a community is “just plain wrong (and possibly hateful).” I agree that any mayor doing that is wrong. However, by your comment, a mayor is being possibly “hateful” by not allowing a business to operate in his/her city but denying the ability of two committed adults to marry based on their sexual orientation is NOT hateful? Maybe I need a smack in the head but I’m just having a difficult time squaring up some of your arguments.

  14. I like the tasty beverage conference idea!

    I am having it both ways personally. I don’t have a dog in the fight. I’m OK with whatever our society chooses in terms of same-sex unions and other civil rights even if I do not agree. There are many issues where our society and government doesn’t do exactly what I believe is the right thing to do but I respect the system and it’s determinations. If there is an issue I feel strongly about, then I will advocate to influence the process. I don’t feel strongly about same-sex unions and rights.

    My participation in this discussion was from a view of fairness of discussion and support of anyone who wants to advocate their position.

    It appears to me that your support of gay rights leads you to believe that anyone who advocates against gay rights is discriminatory. For me, this does not follow. (Preface: I am not equating LGBTs with murderers). When the first laws were suggested and discussed for outlawing murder, were those who supported those laws discriminatory against murderers? No. There was a belief and a conclusion among a majority of society that murderous behavior was detrimental to society and should be outlawed. There is an on-going discussion about the impact of same-sex behavior on society in which case both sides can advocate their position and not be discriminatory. I am OK with both sides advocating their position. I do not believe that their advocacy makes either side a hate group.

    The Klan does have the right to believe what they believe and to speak it even though it is absurd. There is no accounting for taste. Those who believe the Klan is wrong should advocate against them (which fortunately, is most of us in our society).

    I have not found any alternate organizations or methods besides the SPLC to label a hate group. They appear to have the authority simply by being the only ones to take action. My point was that this in and of itself is not sufficient authority especially when the criteria for determining a hate group in the relevance of this discussion seems to be “they don’t believe what we believe”.