A “kiss-in” at Chick-fil-A tomorrow?

posted at 11:36 am on August 2, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

One day after having the best sales day in its history, Chick-fil-A will have to prepare itself for a counter-protest to yesterday’s “appreciation day” by those outraged over threats made by mayors and city council members in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York (Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not join his colleagues in the other cities).  Supporters of same-sex marriage will stage “kiss-ins” at Chick-fil-A locations tomorrow, if a Facebook-organized protest succeeds:

Yesterday’s banner turnout at Chick-fil-A restaurants for free speech rights — with thousands of people nationwide and hundreds in the Bay State’s two locations lining up to buy chicken sandwiches — has turned up the heat on gay rights activists who hope to draw similar crowds for tomorrow’s kiss-in protest at the suddenly controversial fast-food chain.

“We planned an action a few years ago and we only expected 50 people but 500 showed. We’re crossing our fingers for that kind of support again,” said Ian Struthers of grassroots group Join the Impact Massachusetts, who plans to pucker up tomorrow at the Burlington Mall Chick-fil-A for national Same-Sex Kiss Day.

Gay rights advocates are using Facebook to organize the kiss-in in protest of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s opposition to same-sex marriage and the millions of dollars they say the company has donated to anti-gay groups.

The Bay State group plans to hand out fake coupons to customers for a “free side of bigotry” during the Friday night protest.

Well, good luck with that — and I’m not being entirely flippant, either.  This protest has been rumored since at least last week, before supporters loosely organized the “appreciation day” yesterday, but seem to be having difficulty coordinating it. Even if it does get off the ground tomorrow, it’s very unlikely to approach the level of support shown by fans of Chick-fil-A and/or free speech and free exercise of religious expression yesterday.  A weak showing tomorrow would be worse than skipping the protest entirely, as we saw with the failed Occupy movements, whose spring offensive never materialized after being mostly ignored after the first couple of weeks of protesting last fall.

However, there is nothing wrong with protesting over Chick-fil-A’s political connections or ownership’s political views, as long as protestors obey the law in doing so.  That is a perfectly acceptable free-speech, free-market approach to disagreement within commerce.  I’d rather see kiss-ins than lawsuits, for instance, and certainly more than seeing politicians extort businessmen to support their political agendas, as is exactly what Thomas Menino and Rahm Emanuel attempted to do in Boston and Chicago, respectively.  Protests that don’t block customers from accessing the business or act violently are a good release valve for a free society.  Pro-life activists have picketed abortion mills for decades — and often had to fight courts for that same right.  LGBT activists have just as much right to protest Chick-fil-A.

Mike Huckabee, who helped promote yesterday’s appreciation day, agrees:

Huckabee said he sees nothing wrong with “National Same Sex Kiss Day at Chick Fil A,” although he is skeptical of the strategy.

“Probably I won’t be there for that,” Huckabee said. “But so what? That’s America. As long as they’re orderly, as long as they don’t disrupt the flow of customers and traffic — if they believe that will help their cause, to put people of the same sex kissing each other in a public place in front of families, if they believe that will encourage people to be more sympathetic, then, you know, more power to them.

“In America, I believe people have a right to do things that I might not agree with,” he continued. “What I don’t want to do is shut down the voices of Christians because they don’t like those voices.”

In America, we used to take that for granted.  Unfortunately, the cities of Boston, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco elected politicians who forgot that America doesn’t require an oath to support The Party as a condition of engaging in commerce.  In my new column for The Fiscal Times, I point out that this is an essential ingredient in America’s success from the start by guaranteeing equal treatment and regulation regardless of religious belief or political temperament, and that we risk a lot more than a missed chicken filet sandwich if we forget that:

Until now, we have welcomed people of all faiths and creeds into the marketplace as long as they observed rational and reasonable regulation intended to prevent fraud, theft, and abuse, but without trampling on their ability to abide by their beliefs.  In return, a large number of people bring their capital and talent to our markets and generate wealth, jobs, stability, infrastructure, and an increased tax base to our communities.  If we force these people to take their capital and exit these markets, it will result in seriously degraded economies, restriction on choice, fewer jobs, less demand, and a lower standard of living – not to mention keep some of the most talented people from addressing the difficult issues that we face.

Our founders understood that explicitly. They saw the disruptions and damage done by religious tests not just for office but also for commerce, and acted to ensure that our governments would not impose such systems on Americans.  For more than two hundred years, that freedom transformed us into the most powerful nation in the world, economically, militarily, and politically.  Imposing a test for political correctness that excludes tens of millions of faithful Americans cannot help but undermine all that progress as well as our natural rights as citizens.

If government has grown so powerful as to be able to impose and prosecute such tests, then that may be the clearest indication yet that government has grown too large and intrusive to the detriment of all.

Instapundit wrote today that he’s less worried about the impact on our economic health than on the First Amendment — and I agree.  But it’s worth considering the kind of damage that the demand for political and religious orthodoxy as a condition of doing business will have on us in the long run.

Meanwhile, at Patheos, Fr. Dwight Longenecker marvels at the success of yesterday’s protest — and then decides it wasn’t really a protest as much as a rally as an expression of “ordinary” Americanism:

The Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day yesterday was historic. It  was historic because it marks a new method of mass protest. I even hesitate to use the word ‘protest’ because it wasn’t a protest. There wasn’t any anger. There wasn’t any hate. There wasn’t any bullying. There were no unwashed crowds of unhappy people holding a sit in and causing other people stress, inconvenience and expense. There were no protest signs, no marches, no noise makers and attention grabbers. There were no revolutionary slogans, no clenched fists, no class warfare, no sullen adolescents in a stroppy mood.

The classic signs of a protest movement were absent. If they were not actually violent revolutions, the great protest movements in history have often had violent undertones. Subtle threats were made. Bullying tactics, financial and political pressure was exerted. Guns were wielded. Behind the scenes in smoke filled rooms men did deals and crossed swords to determine the future of millions. In the great revolutions hoards of unhappy people filled the streets, rioting and on the rampage they took what they wanted, killed who they wanted and in misplaced zeal for justice overturned an established order. …

Yesterday’s Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day was the sort of ‘revolt’ this country needs, but it was even better than the non violent revolutions and peaceful protests which have changed the world because it was so ordinary. It was just plain, ordinary Americans getting in their cars and doing a plain, ordinary American thing: going out for lunch to a fast food joint. It was just plain, ordinary Americans doing something plain and ordinary, but positive and joyful and good. In buying an ordinary tasty chicken sandwich at their corner fast food emporium ordinary Americans were expressing the wish to be left alone to be ordinary Americans.

After two weeks of highly anti-American behavior by elected officials who should know better, it’s good to see Americans acting like Americans — especially in large numbers.  That’s true even of the kiss-in, to whatever extent it succeeds.  Let’s debate politics and religious values, while allowing everyone to come to market and make their own choices about who and what to engage there.  That is what liberty is all about.


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