July 27, 2012

Kermit v. Chick-fil-A

Okay, so I’m very briefly going to weigh in on the whole Muppets-Chick-fil-A controversy.  Not because it’s the most important news event of the week, but because I think it raises a larger issue that is important. 

For those of you who haven’t heard, here’s the story.  Chick-fil-A opposes gay rights.[1]  Over the years it has given millions of dollars to different anti-gay organizations, and its president has publicly attacked gay marriage, recently stating, for example, that he believes America is “inviting God’s judgment” by its “prideful, arrogant” attempt to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.[2]

Well this past week the Jim Henson Company announced that, because it “has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years,” it has decided to terminate its business dealings with Chick-fil-A.  Henson further announced that it would be giving all the money it has received from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.[3] 

In response to this, many conservatives have attacked the Henson Company.  Someone I personally know claimed that the Henson Company is being hypocritical, this person’s argument being that it is hypocritical for one to claim to be tolerant while at the same time “shunning” someone else simply because they disagree with that person’s beliefs. 

Although this person’s argument—different forms of which I’ve heard over the years—might initially seem plausible, I think it crumbles upon closer examination.  First, the Henson Company hasn’t “shunned” Chick-fil-A.  To shun someone is to disassociate yourself from them, to refuse to even look their way when you encounter them on the street.  If you want to know what it means to shun someone, talk to a Mennonite.[4]  As far as I know, the Henson Company has simply decided to terminate its business dealings with Chick-fil-A.

For similar reasons, I don’t see how refusing to do business with someone makes you intolerant.  When we talk about intolerance, we generally mean—quoting Merriam-Webster—that one is “unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights” with others.  The Henson Company clearly isn’t attempting to deprive anyone of their rights.  That’s what Chick-fil-A has been doing, using its money and influence in an attempt to continue depriving homosexuals of equal rights, namely, the right to marry the consenting adult of their choice.  The Henson Company’s decision to terminate its business relationship is not depriving Chick-fil-A of any rights.  It is instead an attempt to use its own money and influence to help homosexuals achieve equality. 


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Notes

[1] And by “gay rights,” I mean equal rights for gays.

[2] “Chick-Fil-A Donated Nearly $2 Million To Anti-Gay Groups in 2010,” Equality Matters, July 2, 2012; Dylan Stableford, “Chick-fil-A president slams gay marriage,” Yahoo! News, July 18, 2012.

[3] The Jim Henson Company Facebook Page, July 20, 2012.

[4] Or read Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness.  Toews, who herself grew up in a Mennonite family, writes about the shunning act in some detail, describing how the shunned person essentially becomes dead to the believing community.   

3 comments:

Rob Bright said...

Those "anti gay" organizations look to me like "pro-Christian" and "pro traditional family" organizations.

I could likewise say that the Henson company is contributing money to GLAAD - which is an "anti traditional family" and "anti Christian" organization.

Everyone needs to just GET OVER IT. Chik-fil-a has a right to spend their money supporting whatever organizations they choose, so long as neither Chik-fil-a nor the organizations it supports are committing crimes. Likewise, the Henson company has the same right.

After all, in both cases, it's THEIR MONEY.

While I support Chik-fil-a and their right to hold the position they hold, I also support Henson's right to hold their position.

Your argument has some serious holes. For instance, you said:

"I don’t see how refusing to do business with someone makes you intolerant."

Based on your analysis in the article, it would not be intolerant or "shunning" if Chik-fil-a specifically stated that they were choosing not to do business with any gay people whatsoever. Or not do business with women. Or green aliens. Or whatever.

Yet, you and others are worked up over a mere statement in opposition to gay marriage. Well, I oppose adultery for a variety of reasons. Does that mean I am "intolerant" of adultery? Oh my gosh. How could I take such a position?! I'm such a bigot against adulterers (even though I'm still friends with people who have committed adultery and I treat adulterers with respect).

One can oppose something without actually mistreating the people who do it.

Rob Bright

Don Emmerich said...

Hi Rob. I appreciate the good discussion!

There’s a pretty big difference between Chick-fil-A giving money to “pro-family” organizations and the Henson Company giving money to a “pro-gay” organization -- the “pro-family” organizations are working to DEPRIVE a group of individuals equal rights, whereas the “pro-gay” organization is working to GRANT this group equal rights. (When one group of people can marry the consenting adult of their choice and another group cannot, those groups clearly are not equal.)

I agree Chick-fil-A has the right to give their money to these “pro-family” organizations. I never said they didn’t.

“Based on your analysis in the article, it would not be intolerant or ‘shunning’ if Chik-fil-a specifically stated that they were choosing not to do business with any gay people whatsoever.”

I think there’s a difference between not doing business with someone who is trying to deprive a group of people of equal rights and not doing business with an entire group of people that by and large is not trying to deprive a group of people of equal rights.

“Yet, you and others are worked up over a mere statement in opposition to gay marriage. Well, I oppose adultery for a variety of reasons. Does that mean I am ‘intolerant’ of adultery?”

But remember, I used a specific definition of intolerant--"unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights” with others. Based on that definition, I wouldn’t say that disapproving of adultery makes you intolerant of it.

Tony said...

It doesn't really matter what is the underlying motivation.

The fact of the matter is that based on freedom of association and private property rights, any business should be allowed to associate or disassociate with anyone for any reason.

Chick-fil-A has the right to keep themselves disassociated from gay people, and Henson has the right to disassociate themselves from Chick-fil-A for *any* reason, including the one given.

That's how things are actually supposed to work in the free market place; by boycotting businesses you don't agree with, rather than the disgusting attempts of Chicago and Boston's liberal governments to infringe on Chick-fil-A's rights.

There's hypocrisy to pass around on both sides.
Those on the left obviously attempt to use the state to enforce a liberal agenda on private citizens and businesses.
Those on the right are crying foul even when Henson uses legitimate methods to disassociate, as if they even owe an explanation for it.

What's the answer to those on the right who don't agree with Henson?
Very simple: disassociate from Henson and boycot them.

In the end, it should be up to any business if they prefer profit over personal ideology or the other way around. Vote with your wallet.

P.S. There should be equal rights. But not equal privileges. The state should not be handing out privileges on the basis of marriage to anybody, straight or gay.
Why am i paying taxes for anybody's marriage benefits?
Get the government the hell out of marriage, period.