“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” — Mahatma Gandhi
College and university students throughout the country have organized boycotts and petition drives to terminate their schools’ relationship with the national fast food chain Chick-fil-A because of the restaurant’s direct connection to organizations dedicated to restricting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Chick-fil-A’s charitable division, WinShape Foundation, works with and supports such groups as the National Organization for Marriage, the Ruth Institute, the Pennsylvania Family Institute, Focus on the Family, and Exodus International, among others, all fighting to ban marriage for same-sex couples, and some advocating for the “curing” of homosexuality.
Students at Indiana University South Bend successfully lobbied their school to dissociate from Chick-fil-A as a vendor, and students at other campuses are taking their lead, including students at, for example, University of New Orleans, Texas Tech University, Mississippi State University, University of North Texas, and Gainesville State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, and Duke University. By petitioning administrators, students are sending the clear message that discrimination in any form cannot be supported on their campuses.
According to the wording on one of the schools’ petitions: “Mississippi State should be a place that supports equality for everyone — where all students, staff and community members feel welcome. We should not be allowing corporations to do business on our campus if they are using their profits to strip fundamental civil rights from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. Please join me in calling on our school’s leadership to remove Chick-fil-A from campus — unless and until the restaurant chain withdraws its support for anti-gay organizations.”
Dan Cathy, President and Chief Operating Officer of Chick-fil-A issued a press release in an attempt to counter the boycott by stating that “While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees.” He went on to define Chick-fil-A’s Corporate Purpose as: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us, and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A …[and] we will continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families. To do anything different would be inconsistent with our purpose and belief in Biblical principles.”
Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr., Founder and President of STAND (Staying True to America’s National Destiny) accuses these student leaders of hatred against devout Christians. Though students involved in these actions represent all sexual and gender identities, in an interview with Christian New Wire, Jackson argued that: “This is further proof of the insidious and dangerous hatred by homosexual activists of any Christian who dares try to live out their biblical values. The problem in society today is not hatred of homosexuals, but hatred by homosexuals of anyone who refuses to say ‘amen’ to their sexual behavior.”
The Bishop goes on to accuse members of the “homosexual community” of attempting to demolish the faith foundations on which our country is based since “it is an affront to them and they want a sexually amoral society remade in their image.” Jackson argues that the oppression toward Christians, which he terms “Christo-phobia” and “Biblo-phobia,” is so extreme and extensive that now “may be the time to make Christians a protected class.”
I would ask Bishop Jackson, to which biblical marriage values is he referring? Does he prefer that men engage in polygamous relationships like Abraham, the patriarch of Jews, Christians, and Muslims who conceived progeny with two women, his wife Sarah and maid Hagar? And I would think that many women today, homosexual and heterosexual alike, may find difficulty in Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” And, Bishop Jackson, do you really promote the commandment to women in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35: “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”
I wonder how many parents really subscribe to Exodus 21:15 & 17, which dictates: “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.”
Rather than reverting to a boycott, Jackson is calling for a “Buycott” of Chick-fil-A, in support of the company’s defense of marriage, and protection of family and Christian values.
Over the years, similar boycotts to those currently underway against Chick-fil-A have been waged against companies. For example, some have boycotted Domino’s Pizza when it was discovered that its founder, Tom Monahan, supported a number of anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue. Some people do not shop at Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores, since it actively promotes (proselytizes) a form of Christianity in its ads, especially around Easter, and often plays Christian music over the airwaves in its stores.
For all those on the political Right and others who promote a “free market” system, you should be in full support of the boycott since this strategy maintains that very system.
With the recent actions taken against Chick-fil-A, a critical question must be addressed. While private companies like Chick-fil-A most certainly and clearly have the right to support organizations and causes of their choice, should public tax supported institutions such as universities maintain connections with those companies that expressly violate campus non-discrimination policies?
While conservative Christian theologians like Bishop Jackson pose as victims in this drama, most campus non-discrimination politics now include sexual identity and gender identity and expression as enumerated categories. By opposing the basic civil rights of LGBT people, Chick-fil-A and its allied organizations clearly fall under the definition of discrimination according to campus policies.
Current events clearly show that students nationwide are taking the lead in raising critical issues, and they are holding campus administrators accountable for upholding their stated policies.
Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author The What, The So What, and The Now What of Social Justice Education (Peter Lang Publishers), and Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).