The Chik fil A debacle is not about free speech

Instead of my planned piece about David Barton (that’s still on its way, trust me), today’s post is going to be Bigotry 101 for conservative Christians everywhere.

1. There is no such thing as a “homosexual lifestyle.” It’s a sexual orientation. Try referring to the “heterosexual lifestyle,” and ask yourself what the hell that means.  Continuing: sexual orientation is not a choice. To state otherwise is to contradict all available evidence to the contrary. It ignores the well-documented failure of “reparative therapy.” It places human sexuality in a binary system that is not supported either by psychology or biology. If you believe that a GLBT orientation is a choice, you demean it. You place it below your own identity. So if you say this, you are a bigot.

2. So no, you cannot “love” gay people if you think their sexuality is wrong. It is patently absurd to refer to a sexual relationship between consenting adults as wrong. You cannot respect someone’s personhood if you believe that an intrinsic aspect of their personhood is sinful. We’re talking about sexual orientation, not a personality trait. It is no different from stating that someone’s skin color is wrong, or that someone’s disability is wrong. If you say this, you are a bigot.

3. Boycotting Chik fil A is not an attempt at censorship. Those of us who have decided to boycott this restaurant chain do so because we do not want our money going to support hate groups. That is because anti-gay language correlates with hate crimes against LGBT individuals on basis of sexual orientation. Anti-gay legislation, like bans on same-sex marriage, also correlate to increases in suicide among LGBT youth. This isn’t a simple matter of free speech, and it’s facetious to portray it as such. Nor is it really a matter of religious freedom. Your religious freedom ends where someone else’s civil rights begin. If you believe otherwise, you are a bigot.

And now a personal anecdote: I have had the misfortune of hearing Chik fil A CEO Dan Cathy speak in public. In fact, he was my commencement speaker. I have the commemorative baton and Chik fil A coupon to prove it. And after listening to him speak, I’m convinced that the only person Cathy loves more than Jesus is himself. He spoke obsessively about his father’s business acumen, which of course he believes he inherited. He also uses his “Christian testimony” as a business tactic. In fact, he seems to directly conflate the two. So don’t expect an apology from him. That would require humility. Furthermore, he’s also a committed ideologue. This has only bolstered his reputation as a lion of the religious right.

A year before Dan Cathy spoke at my graduation, I interviewed one of the co-authors of Unchristian for the student newspaper. If you’re not familiar with the book, I highly recommend it. It’s based on a Barna Group poll that revealed the top reasons members of the Millennial generation left the organized American church. The top result? 91% of Millennials polled felt that the church was blatantly anti-gay. Dan Cathy’s remarks only reinforce this perception. They contribute to the marginalization of GLBT Americans, and to my generation’s mass exodus from American Christianity.

So, conservative Christians, if you want more LGBT suicides and hate crimes, if you want your church to continue its path to irrelevance, then by all means, enjoy that chicken sandwich. If you’re concerned about the future of your church, and feel compassion for the individuals marginalized by rhetoric like Cathy’s, then I advise to put that sandwich down and seriously re-examine your support for this corporation.

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