Chick-fil-A Dustup Shows Freedom for Fundamentalists Is a One-Way Street

The truth is, Chick-fil-A should be able to open wherever it wants in the same way that I should be able to marry in any state that I want.
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In his latest screed, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat implored those who are opposed to Chick-fil-A's anti-gay views to "Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that's good and decent, and that you're going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will."

Well, let's toss the idea right back at Douthat: Say what you really think: that you and other fundamentalist Christians are superior and that allowing people with whom you disagree to have equal rights and opportunities threatens all that's good and decent, and that you're going to continue in the un-American business of using the levers of power to bend us to your will.

Fundamentalist Christian authors George Grant and Gary North best summarized this view in their infamous book, Changing of the Guard:

"But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after."

This is precisely what fundamentalists have been doing for as long as they could get away with it. When it was permissible, they would bully non-Christian students into reciting their sectarian prayers in public schools.

How about race?

"If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 [Brown v. Board of Education] decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn the line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line," Rev. Jerry Falwell once wrote.

For much of American history, secular Americans were forced to abide by repressive Blue Laws, which dictated when people could drink alcohol or sell goods and services. For example, until April 2011, one could not buy alcohol in Georgia on Sundays; the state's governor, Sonny Perdue, was a teetotaler. Even now, instead of individuals having the right to decide when they drink in Georgia, it is voted on in each county.

Given this historically despotic behavior by religious majorities, isn't it rather hypocritical for fundamentalists to now claim that their religious freedom is threatened because Boston mayor Tom Menino is against having Chick-fil-A open up in Boston?

"You can't have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population," the mayor said, with his comments echoed by the mayors of Chicago and Washington, D.C.

The histrionic fundamentalists are now pretending to be martyrs. However, I'd love to have them answer a simple question: If Gov. Perdue can use his beliefs to tell people they can't buy a cold beer on a hot summer day in Georgia, than why can't Mayor Menino use his equally heartfelt beliefs to tell people that they can't have a greasy chicken sandwich in Boston?

The answer is that fundamentalists believe that religious freedom is a one-way street. For example, they can gang up on secular and religious minorities and vote for a dry county and that is "liberty." But if voters ever decide to vote for a city free of fundamentalist fowl, it suddenly becomes a perfidious act of religious persecution. You either adhere to their values or they scream "victim!"

The same principles apply for marriage equality. There are religious denominations and clergy who would perform same-sex unions. However, they aren't allowed because fundamentalist Christians think that their beliefs supersede both secular law and the religious freedom of others.

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy is an example of this double standard. While he trumpets his own personal religious liberty, he funds the Family Research Council (FRC), a group that has no compunction about limiting freedom.

"The oft-repeated mantra 'you can't legislate morality' -- the contention that moral arguments have no place in formulating public policy -- is absurd," FRC writes in a brochure opposing same-sex marriage. "It is the duty of legislators to evaluate the right legislation needed to correct some wrong or injustice, or promote some positive or good result."

Isn't that exactly what Mayor Menino is doing -- using his sense of morality to correct an injustice?

Contrary to their insincere shrieks, there is no crisis of religious liberty for fundamentalist Christians. The problem is that they have been drunk on their own power for so long that they equate the exercise of religion with forcing others to live by their restrictive rules. Because they can no longer dominate, dictate and discriminate without pushback, they are whining that they are somehow suppressed.

The truth is, Chick-fil-A should be able to open wherever it wants in the same way that I should be able to marry in any state that I want. However, as long as fundamentalists insist on a puritanical pecking order where the "moral" majority rules, they have no basis in which to complain when they can't have their fowl in Boston. The fundamentalists must decide if they want dominion or democracy, but it is doubtful that both ideas can co-exist in the free society they claim to cherish.

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