Loving the Freedom to Hate at Chick-fil-A

On August 1, hundreds of thousands of Americans went to bed with a belly full of chicken, feeling they'd been warriors for free speech.

After calls from the LGBT community to boycott Chick-fil-A for its president Dan Cathy's prolific anti-gay activity, former Governor Mike Huckabee called for a national "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." All over the country, lined up patrons were talking about how much they loved free speech and were there to support it and fight for it.

Funny. I don't recall all those people lining up outside JC Penney when that company hired Ellen DeGeneres as its spokeswoman, and an organization calling itself "One Million Moms" (actually just a web project of the anti-gay American Family Association) was calling for her to be fired simply because she is gay. (Said "Million Moms" are now calling for a boycott of Amazon.com over founder Jeff Bezos' support of marriage equality).

Or remember the throngs of free speech lovers, lined up around the block outside Starbucks, when another deceptively named Right-wing anti-gay organization calling itself "The National Organization for Marriage," was trying to drum up a national boycott against the company because they support marriage equality?

I don't either. Because they weren't there. They never have been. And that's because the people who lined up outside Chick-fil-A to support Dan Cathy don't really love free speech. They loved what Dan Cathy said.

Except that it wasn't actually Dan Cathy's words that were being protested. It was his actions.

Cathy, through Chick-fil-A, has donated millions of dollars to organizations whose main purpose is to block or roll back civil rights to LGBT Americans. Among them is a Southern Poverty Law Center-investigated hate group that calls itself the Family Research Council.

Whether the people standing in line knew this or not would likely have made no difference. Because they still would've defended Chick-fil-A's donations as their First Amendment right, as Christians. After all, it was "Biblical principles" Dan Cathy cited as his moral calling.

But notice what he was fighting for: Not the right to feed the hungry, to aid the poor, or to lift up the despised of society -- original, true Christian values. Instead, the right to hate and discriminate: The right to refuse housing or services to people because they are gay, the right to fire people because they are gay, and the right to rewrite constitutions to erase civil rights for gay people.

That work is what Dan Cathy's money is actually funding, whatever his carefully crafted press releases say.

And that work is what regrettably many American Christians appear to consider their moral calling. Their organizations bear names such as the Family Research Institute, American Family Association, and Concerned Women for America. But behind warm-sounding words about being pro-family lurks a singular concentrated effort aimed not at building anything or celebrating anything, but at tearing down, belittling, and bullying a single segment of Americans: LGBT families.

Imagine if Chick-fil-A had given millions of dollars to a Holocaust denier group, or a KKK front organization. Would the media still be ignoring that and pretending this was all just about words? Would hundreds of thousands of Americans be lining up for chicken sandwiches in support? Perhaps some would, but most Americans wouldn't be caught dead.

Dan Cathy obviously has the right to say whatever he wants and donate money to whomever he chooses -- like all Americans. But let's get real: I feel that because the people he's targeted are just the gays, few are standing up to him.

Gays and women are the last two groups it is still OK to openly hate in America. And not just OK; some people are damn proud of it. If you ate at Chick-Fil-A on August 1, that's all you were celebrating and defending.