Let me just say upfront that I love me some Chick-fil-A.
I love the grilled chicken sandwich, mostly because as a Weight Watchers member, grilled chicken is one of the best foods a person can eat and feel full for hours.
Oh, and I like the waffle fries, too.
What I don’t like, though, is the chance that the money I spend on my once-a-week sandwich could be funding organizations that back harmful, long-discredited ideas that claim homosexuals can be converted, or those which coddle groups with leaders that believe gay people ought to be imprisoned, or those that push the lie that gay people are really pedophiles-in-waiting.
Yet organizations that feed that kind of hurtfulness receive money from Chick-fil-A.
So when you hear people pushing for a boycott of Chick-fil-A, it isn’t solely because its CEO, Dan Cathy, recently said he was opposed to gay marriage.
It’s because many of the groups it supports are against gay people having any rights at all.
According to tax records, anti-gay groups received nearly $2 million from WindShape Foundation, Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, in 2010. Among those groups was the National Christian Foundation, which received $247,500. That foundation also gives money to organizations such as Family Research Council, which also got $1,000 from Chick-fil-A.
Family Research Council is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
It continues to push the lie that homosexuals are prone to pedophilia; a lie that often fuels crimes against gay people. According to SPLC, one of the council’s senior research fellows, Peter Sprigg, has even advocated outlawing homosexual behavior, and once suggested in an interview that they be expelled from the country.
That’s not all.
Exodus International also received $1,000 from the foundation in 2010 – a group that pushes long discredited, ex-gay therapy. And in 2009, the Eagle Forum received $5,000 from WindShape.
The Eagle Forum is headed by Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime, ultra right-winger who not only has issues with gay people, but with black and brown people too. Just this year she said that the increase in non-white births were not a good thing for the country because “they don’t share American values.”
Oh, she also once said in an interview that all unmarried women were all looking to get welfare, and that President Obama was trying to boost welfare rolls to get re-elected.
In fairness, there’s no way for Chick-fil-A to control every controversial remark that comes from the people who lead the groups it supports. The brouhaha also begs the question as to whether people should avoid every company that gives money to organizations they find objectionable, as that could be a long list.
I say people should follow their conscience.
That’s what I plan to do and I’m doing it because it’s hard for me to believe that Chick-fil-A doesn’t see how what these groups are doing crosses the line from upholding religious values into feeding intolerance. And as a black woman with a keen sense of history and an even keener sense of empathy, I can’t overlook the fact that once upon a time, and even now, there were groups that demonized us when we were fighting for our rights.
Just as Family Research Council stirs fears about homosexuals by painting them as pedophiles-in-waiting, white supremacist groups often stirred up fears over integration by pushing lies about how black boys were salivating over the chance to rape white girls.
And as people who, unfortunately, send most of our money out of our communities anyway, we ought to especially be concerned about whether a company, intentionally or not, is using that money to support organizations that foster the kind of stereotypes that we once had to overcome.
So I agree that Cathy has the right to say he doesn’t like gay marriage and not be glitter-bombed for it – and not have mayors bar his company from expanding or locating in their cities.
But what he and his supporters, like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, need to understand is freedom of expression is a sword that cuts both ways. And now that I know what I know, and seeing that a whole lot of places sell chicken sandwiches, I’ll be expressing my right to find myself another one.
One served up without the drama and even less of the hate.
Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her on Twitter @tonyaajw.