Editor's Note: R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.
By R. Albert Mohler Jr., Special to CNN
(CNN)–Cultural upheavals often occur in the most surprising contexts. Who expected that a clash between sexuality and religious liberty would be focused on a restaurant company mainly known for its chicken sandwiches?
And yet the controversy over Chick-fil-A is a clear sign that religious liberty is at risk and that this nation has reached the brink of tyrannical intolerance from at least some of our elected leaders.
The controversy ignited when Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, son of the company’s legendary founder, Truett Cathy, told a Baptist newspaper that he and his company “operate on biblical principles” and “are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.”
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Defining Chick-fil-A as “a family business,” Cathy went on to say that “We intend to stay the course. … We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”
Media attention to Cathy’s comments revealed a radio interview he had given a few weeks earlier in which he commented that “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at (God) and say, ‘We know better than You what constitutes a marriage.'
“I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think we would have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about,” he said.
Within days, elected officials in Chicago, Boston and New York were pledging to deny the company access to their cities.
“Because of (Dan Cathy’s) ignorance, I will deny Chick-fil-A a permit to open a restaurant in my ward,” Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno said, in a threat echoed by
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was just as blunt: “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston,” he said. “We’re an open city. We’re a city at the forefront of inclusion.”
But the kind of inclusion he had in mind would evidently exclude Chick-fil-A.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who just recently married her lesbian partner, called upon New York University to kick Chick-fil-A off its campus.
9 religious companies (besides Chick-fil-A)
Echoing the Boston mayor’s lack of irony, she also called for exclusion in the name of inclusion: “We are a city that believes our diversity is our greatest strength, and we will fight anything and anyone that runs counter to that.”
Within days, Moreno, Emanuel and Menino had qualified their statements somewhat, promising to operate within the law and constitutional limits. Those clarifications became necessary when legal authorities quickly recognized threatened violations of First Amendment rights.
To his credit, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ardent supporter of same-sex marriage, warned, “You can’t have a test for what the owner’s personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city.”
Note carefully that Chick-fil-A was not charged with discrimination in hiring or service but simply with the fact that its president and chief operating officer supports traditional marriage.
Note something else: Dan Cathy’s statements were explicitly religious. He made his comments to the religious press, including a Baptist newspaper. His comments were infused with his Christian convictions, the same convictions that have led the company to close for business every Sunday.
The threats made against Chick-fil-A betray the principle of religious liberty that is enshrined within the U.S. Constitution. Civic officials in some of the nation’s largest and most powerful cities have openly threatened to oppose Chick-fil-A for the singular reason that its president openly spoke of his Christian convictions concerning marriage.
When Quinn, one of the most powerful officials in New York, announces, “I do not want establishments in my city that hold such discriminatory views,” is she also threatening the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Jewish synagogues and Islamic mosques?
They, along with evangelical Christian denominations, openly oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage. Cathy’s statements are completely consistent with his own denomination’s statement of faith and official declarations. He was speaking as a Christian and as a Southern Baptist, and he was speaking as a man who does his best to live and speak as he believes.
Christian groups allege threats to religious freedom in anti-Chick-fil-A campaigns
When Emanuel and Moreno tell Chick-fil-A to stay out of Chicago, are they audacious enough to deliver that same message to the churches, mosques and synagogues of their city that also oppose same-sex marriage? What do they do with the fact that their own state does not allow same-sex marriages?
This country is deeply divided over the issue of same-sex marriage, and the controversy over Chick-fil-A is an ominous sign that many of the proponents of same-sex marriage are quite willing to violate religious liberty and to use any and all means to silence and punish any individual or organization that holds the contrary view – a view sustained by the voters in 29 states by constitutional amendments.
Addressing the intersection of same-sex marriage and religious liberty, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley has warned that the government must not be “viewed as unfairly trying to pre-determine the debate or harass one side.”
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That is exactly what some elected officials have just shown themselves ready to do. It will not stop with Chick-fil-A. Who will be next to be told to get out of town?
I know Dan and Truett Cathy and other members of the Cathy family. Truett has spoken on our campus. I have prayed at the opening of multiple Chick-fil-A locations. I serve on the board of directors of Focus on the Family, which has been supported by Chick-fil-A. My son, Christopher, is a part-time service employee of a local Chick-fil-A restaurant in Louisville. I have not communicated with Chick-fil-A about this column.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Religion can be used to justify ANYTHING. You could argue we are denying Al-Qaeda their religious liberty to perform Jihad on our cities. Religions do some kooky, dangerous, frightening things that shouldn't be cloaked in a free for all called "Religious Liberty".
The use of supernaturalism to manipulate and control people is the world's oldest confidence scheme,
it relies on the ritual abuse of children at their most impressionable stage by adults who have themselves
been made childish for life by artifacts of the primitive mind.
Religious liberty, which means the right to believe in the "supernatural," does not justify bigotry. Bigotry is bigotry, even if it is supported by ancient "religious" texts. Bigots existed 2,000 years ago, and ancient bigotry should not be permitted to intrude into our era. Hopefully, science and history have taught us something, and we're better, and more knowledgeable than whoever contributed to those "religious" texts 2,000 to 3,000 thousand years ago; so, don't eat chicken!
Religious liberty is not under threat. When religious leaders decided to start openly playing in politics they needed to expect to get some heat from others with differing views. That's politics. Can't stand the heat, then get out of politics.
This has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with ignorance, intolerance, hatred, and descrimination. You are using religion to justify your ignorance and discrimination against gay people. Gay people are your children, family, friends, and co-workers....People are born gay, it is innate, biological, and God given. Chick-Fil-A is sending a terrible message to our gay kids. Shame on Chick-Fil-A for using God's name to justify their immoral, ignorant, and disgusting comments.
It has to do with the right to stand up for what you believe in. Every American has a right to say they like this or they like that. If I own my own business and I choose to not get behind a movement that I feel is not ethical, that is my right unless I am taking government money.
@John – It's a bit more complex than just respecting beliefs. It's not just about a difference of *opinion*, it's about gays being discriminated against, hated, bullied, and... not having a lot of the same rights in our society.
How do you respect people that *believe* you don't deserve equality under the law like everyone else, because they think you are less than, or a sinner, etc... and that think your 'soul' is going to burn for ever in 'eternal dam-nation.' ...?
Oh, just let them do what they want. Relax people!
If you had gay kids you would not say that. We must never stop educating until this kind of primitive, ignorance is eradicated.
Yeah, ikr! It's their choice if they don't support it- you can't make them support it...
what america said about germany until pearl harbor happened....
This site is so wonderful in how it allows people to have intelligent discourses on such important topics. The editors certainly earn their salaries by choosing such timely topics. There are so many good points being made here that a thoughtful person would be remiss if he did not take the time to read each opinion and its replies. Perhaps in the future we can see debates here about the existence of god or the morality of the death penalty.
What ?!?! This is the most gigantic 'non sequitur' I've ever heard in my life.
Thank you for a decent article. I plan on eating at Chick-Fil-A tomorrow in support of their boldness to stand up for what they believe. For all the hub-bub out there, the fact stated in the article that voters in 29 out of 50 states (that's almost 60%) support traditional marriage speaks volumes. So where are all the bogus statistics coming from that are trying to deceive our nation into believing the very opposite?
So many Christians try to rationalize this but it is clear that a true follower of Jesus can neither divorce someone nor marry someone who is divorced. There is an exception to the rule, however. If spouse commits adultery, divorce is permissible. On the same token, the Bible also says that anyone who obtains a divorce and marries another is in adulterer. Remember that 80% of this country is Christian yet we have a 50% divorce rate. A majority of divorces are a result of irreconcilable differences, not adultery, which implies that Christians are again practicing selective morality. How many Christians are working on a second, third or fourth marriage?
It speaks that that voters in 29 out of 50 states are bigoted narrow-minded fools. Just because the majority may rule doesn't mean the majority is right. The majority of people in the United States don't believe naturalistic evolution occurs, they're wrong.
Also... most people used to believe the earth was flat. The majority was wrong then, and it wrong now.
First of all, it doesn't matter how many states try to prevent gays from having equal rights – that doesn't make it right. And for you, a (false) christian, to advocate this treatment toward your fellow man doesn't make you right either. You ever wonder what your boy jesus would say about that?
Notice he didn't state the population numbers of those 29 states as compared to the other 21. Curious considering the more liberal states like NY and Cali tend have higher populations than the more conservative states.
Can't we all just agree that Chick-Fil-A is delicious?
It is very delicious, but a fast food organization shouldn't have a religious agenda, no matter who runs it.
@MawcDrums: So do you think a fast food organization should have a gay agenda?
They have there right to their opinion, if gays don't like it to bad. The gays are the first one to c/o freedom of speech yet don't like it if their no heard, thats why we have the second amendment.
"warrior", name a mainstream restaurant with a "gay agenda".
@ WorshipWarrior I don't think a fast food organization should have any agenda besides providing a good product to their payinc customers. The employees of said organization can feel whatever way they want about a certain subject, but to publicize bigotry in the name of religious freedoms is absurd.
every one is a hypocrite
I am offended. I think white people and black people shouldn't be allowed to marry. If you disagree you hate religious freedom.
I actually find it scary that religion can be used to justify the unjust!
exactly, these religious nut bags are making the same argument, it just goes to show that they are running out of intelligent christians.
perfect way of saying it
This. I believe the trial court in Loving v. Virginia said:
‘Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.’
But surely we don't view the belief against mixed race marriages as a religious belief! This is a delicate subject because it is bigotry promoted by many (but not all) religions. Does bigotry of any form deserve protection afforded religion? Should religious killings be protected?
That being said, I think that these political figures went a little too far. Although I agree with the sentiment, it is a sort of grey area and many religious people are always jumping at the chance to pretend to be a powerless victim...
Maybe it is time someone speaks up for the people who have traditional views. I personally don't want to go somewhere and see two gay people snuggling up together just as two gay people don't want to see two straight people enjoying their relationship. So maybe traditional couples like hanging out together with their families and gay people the same. So why is there such a big stink in the gay community when straight people want to be left alone in their beliefs. Is it possibly because the gay people are stepping on our rights and think they are right ????????????????? So now the rights of which group is being violated, the gay community or the traditional community?
well..DUH !! straight people have their rights... gay people DO NOT... what part of this do you not get imbicile?
" I personally don't want to go somewhere and see two gay people snuggling up together just as two gay people don't want to see two straight people enjoying their relationship."
Wow! You actually said that? Do you believe that?
Just because YOU are a bigot don't as.sume everyone else is.
@ ed - it's really too funny when people trying to insult the intelligence of others can't even spell their own insults correctly.
Look no offense, but you don't seem like a very smart guy.
Maybe if I get out a crayon and a piece of construction paper, I could get my 4 year old daughter to draw you a picture demonstrating how backwards your views are.
I doubt you would understand though.
@srd – I spelled it incorrectly on purpose doophus.. so it would post.
Define traditional or let me help you. Christians want to turn the clock back and live a life in the rose colored world of Leave it to Beaver or Ozzy and Harriet where:
1. Women should be barefoot, pregnant, and always in the kitchen.
2. Men are allowed unbridled reign over family
3. Number 2 means that men are free to beat wives and kids, especially kids, because, after all, doesn't Proverbs say spare the rod, spoil the kid? So, if you don't spare the rod the kid will grow up to be healthy, wealthy, and wise or a sociopath.
4. One must be a white, anglo saxon Protestant. And other color is suspect
5. One must tow the line at work no matter how abusive the conditions are. After all, you're not really working for someone else – you're working for god so any problems can be taken up with the deity.
6. One must blindly salute and follow the flag with no questions asked because everyone knows that god founded this country the same way it gave us the bible – right out of the sky.
@ ed - you can post the word 'imbecile.'
gay people don't give two f&*ks about your straight relationship.
@srd – sorry I blew up. I spell things wrong all the time, because if I put something rude in my comment, they're often times deleted, or "under review" before it can be posted.
Well now it did not take you long to attack my views. I voiced my opinion and because it was not in line with what you believe, I am suddenly uneducated, backwards, and other ugly things. So am I suposed to keep quite with my views while you speak yours. Seems you are attacking my views the same way Chick-Fil-A management was attacked. Seems like freedom of speech is a problem here. I did not call any of you names of insult your intelligence – so why the vicious attack???? I simply posted my opinion just as you did – but I did not insult you.
@jborderlin- ok, I regret my temper tantrum. You did not deserve that. It gets frustrating trying to get thru to the public that I'm not attacking you, your opinion, or your way of life. I'm frustrated because you treat me like a 2nd class citizen, and you think it's justifiable. I'm not 2nd class. I have a 14 year relationship, and I want my rights. That's all. Give me my rights, and you'll never see or hear from me again...promise!
When did you choose to be heterose.xual?
When I decided I wanted to start my own family, have MY own children and raise them in a loving Chirstian enviroment.
When did you decide to be gay, if you are?
Religious liberty under threat?
Yeah okay we have:
Bibles in every motel room
God on our money
Moments of silence (prayer) before public events
Christian cable networks 24/7
Discounts on insurance for being christian
Churches every 6 blocks in every city over 100,000
Christian bookstores in every town over 12,000
God in The Pledge of Allegiance
Christian billboards along the highway advertising Vacation Brainwashing School (VBS) for your children
Federally recognized Christian holiday
Religious organizations are tax free
75% of the population claims to be Christian
National day of prayer
God in the National Anthem
Please, take the persecuted christian whine line somewhere else.
I definitely get your point – but when we check the dollar bill, I see more signs of freemason symbols and wonder if they refer to some other 'God' on the bill than we imagine.
i agree with you....but where in our national anthem is god?
Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
You are correct!
matt, you left out 3 stanza's. Look again
think he probly meant the Pledge of Allegiance.
WOW, you know the 4th versesof the Star Spangled Banner. Impressed
Let's consider a similar example.
Assume, for the sake of argument, that a Nazi businessman in Germany made a private statement to the Nazi press, saying "I don't personally think Jews should be allowed in our country, but my company will continue to hire Jews and treat them fairly"
Wouldn't we be justified to call him out on his lie and try to prevent him from opening a store in our city?
Similarly, Chick-fil-A might CLAIM to be treating gays equally in employment matters, but when the CEO and owners have such regressive views, it's obvious what is really happening.
No, it isn't obvious. Just because I don't like what this CEO says, does not mean I am going to jump to conclussions about what they are doing. Now, if it comes out that they are discriminating, then you do something about it. If you are going to punish people for having a belief, any belief, then there are no innocent people are there? Punish not the belief, but what is done in the name of that belief.
Not to mention that CFA is franchised and 90% of the organization's hiring decisions are made by local investors not chained to corporate's viewpoints.
Another example would be when the CEO of Godaddy.com was photographed after having hunted and killed an elephant in Africa. Many animal activists and others boycotted the company to get the point across. It has more to do with not wanting to support a company that with it's profits go towards discrimination and hate (or in that case the murder of endangered species). The company isn't just saying "we don't like gay people". They are funding very large movements to prevent gay people from having the same rights as straight men and women. They legally CAN do that. And I will never give them another cent, it's a choice I am making.
In Netherlands, the age of consent is 12 years old. Great for pedophiles – they want to get "married" too!. It's the next step on the gay agenda.
Either you're a really bad troll, or extremely dumb, I can't tell which one
Probably a little of both.
Chik-Fil-A is not the only openly ereligious company – Hobby Lobby is the same way as far as Sunday is concerned, and In and Out Burger prints religious tracts on their paper [products – but nobody is making a big deal about them. Also, this was raised up in the political arena when Huckabee declared that August 1 would be Eat at Chik-Fil-A day – a fact that the author has ignored.
The reality is – Chik-Fil-A is a company – period. They are free to have any political agenda they want with the context of our laws. I chose not to support them by not eating there. End of story.
What "Someone" said is exactly the right stance to take. I believe as the people at Chick-Fil-A do, and I'll keep being their customer.
The same is true for the 'Hollywood & Music Elite' ... if they are vocal about their politcal beliefs, I don't need to watch their movies or listen to their music. It's my choice as a free citizen. Oddly, they act all surprised when people don't want to be their fans any more.
I do believe businesses should be allowed to operate as long as they follow the rules that other businesses are subject to. I do not believe in discrimination in this case, no matter how much I disagree with the owners. Freedom is freedom, I want it, so I have to give it.
Do I think they're wrong in their beliefs? Doesn't matter. (I do by the way). Do I have to buy their product? No way! I have the freedom to say no. Now, if their beliefs resulted in discrimination towards customers or employees then that would have to be dealt with on it's own merits. I guarantee you that many will not appreciate my beliefs. But I'm free to have them, and so are the owners of Chick-fil-A.
He's right... denying this company a business permit based on social ideology, no matter how hateful, is wrong and a slippery slope to all kinds of really bad city planning decisions.
The proper course of action is to establish and fund anti-bigot organizations that find legitimate ways and means to bankrupt them.
You're right on all counts. The problem is that it's a tactic that christians have been using for decades to dictate the operating enviroment for businesses that don't line up with their "values".
I don't see why you would want to 'bankrupt' them because they have differing views...that's a bit over the line. And ManBearPig...you claim it's a tactic Christians have used for years. Please give examples. And if you perhaps find one zealout or fringe group...don't claim that is indicative of all Christians, because it is not.
You think all those laws regarding pron theaters, selling booze on Sundays, etc. etc. etc. aren't driven by religious "values"?
This country was founded by people who fled religious persecution.
The gay lobby has succeeded in bringing it back, so they can force their repugnant, disease spreading lifestyle to A,Erica's living rooms. And we're supposed to love them...
So gays should be subjected to religious persecution because this country was founded on freedom from religious persecution ? Your post makes no sense at all.
I'm a liberal. I follow the laws. I also don't fight to make laws that discriminate against others. It's the Christian thing to do, or at least it used to be when there were more real Christians.
Your "logic" there would say that anyone can marry into any type of marriage. Your "legal" statement there would suggest you're also for legalizing all drugs. Is that correct also?
That's a fallacy. If you're going to equate legalizing gay marriage to legalizing drugs, you might as well go all the way and point out the differences as well. For example, there are rational, secular reasons for drugs being illegal – whether you agree with them or not (and I'm not saying I do or don't). What is the reasoning behind banning gay marriage?
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.