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Richard Roeper Blog

Chik-fil-a controversy turned into: a modern-day episode of “Seinfeld.”

On the old “Seinfeld” show, they love to poke holes in the shields of the sanctimonious and the self-righteous. Remember the AIDS walk, when Kramer is bullied because he won’t wear a ribbon? Or how about the episode titled “The Couch,” in which Elaine says she won’t eat Pacinno’s pizzas because the owner of the chain donates to anti-abortion groups. Jerry keeps pushing her to be consistent with her stance, which leads to Elaine refusing to dine at Poppie’s restaurant and ending a relationship because of her new boyfriend’s views.

Meanwhile, there’s a metaphorical debate going on in Poppie’s kitchen, as Kramer and Poppie argue about when a pizza actually becomes a pizza.

KRAMER: What gives you the right to tell me how I would make my pie?
POPPIE: Because it’s a pizza!
KRAMER: It’s not a pizza until it comes out of the oven!
POPPIE: It’s a pizza the moment you put your fists in the dough!
That’s what the whole Chik-fil-a controversy turned into: a modern-day episode of “Seinfeld.” The most astonishing thing about the whole debate was that so many people couldn’t seem to understand the huge difference between a CEO’s religious views and a company actually practicing discrimination in the workplace.

(AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

After Chick-fil-a CEO Dan Cathy reiterated his family’s views on gay marriage (“We’re inviting God’s judgment on our natrion”) on a radio show, a firestorm erupted, with elected officials in Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Chicago stating their opposition to further expansion of Chik-fil-a franchises in their backyards.

Chick-fil-a CEO Dan Cathy

In Chicago, Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) talked about the standards for “my businesses,” as if he’s some sort of kingpin in an HBO series who gets to rule on everything that happens in his ward.

“If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the 1st Ward,” said Moreno.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “Chick-fil-a values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”

Really, Mr. Mayor? Have you seen the crowds at the Chick-fil-a on Chicago and Michigan?

Remember: all along we’re talking about the CEO’s views. If anyone has evidence of Chick-fil-a refusing to hire gays and lesbians or denying service to customers they perceived to be gay, please step forward. You’d think the problem would be so obvious here. If you’re going to keep Chick-fil-a out of your ward, your town, your city, are you going to poll the CEO’s of every other company wishing to do business with you? And who decides what a city’s “values” are anyway–the mayor gets to do that?

Really?

Separation of state and church notwithstanding, it must really rankle the mayor that the Catholic Church has such a strong presence in Chicago. We know the Church’s stance on gay marriage–and Emanuel has already told us, those aren’t Chicago values. After I said I didn’t agree with Cathy’s views but I staunchly opposed the ludicrous stances taken by Moreno, Emaneul, et al., and that it’s a slippery slope once we allow a government to arbitrarily decide which businesses can open, about 30 percent of the feedback I received was negative.

A sampling of Tweets:

“Not slippery. Forces them to shut up or face community sanctions. Spewing hate should have consequences.”
“I’m surprised at how off you are on this. A corp proudly touting their discrimination should be treated accordingly.”
“This isn’t just some guy’s opinion; he’s instilling his beliefs as company policy.”
“CEO’s that try to impose a radical, bigoted culture on their employees should not be welcomed ANYWHERE.”

OK. Deep breath.

Anyone who wants to marry anyone else, I’m all for it. It should be legal and socially acceptable in every corner of the world. Here’s hoping for that day. You want to boycott Chick-fil-a, protest in front of Chick-fil-a, tell the world to avoid Chick-fil-a, go for it and God bless. But are you going to take the same position regarding any company in which any executive has expressed similar views? If not, how are you not being selectively passionate about your cause? As the week wound down, a number of officials were backing down.

Rahm’s spokesman told us the mayor “never said he’d block the restaurant from coming,” while the mayor of Boston acknowledged that even though he’d fired off a grandstanding letter to Chick-fil-a telling them they weren’t welcome, he couldn’t actually prevent them from building a franchise.

To me the biggest disappointment was seeing so many liberals so quick to embrace government intervention because in this case it happened to mesh with their own views. How can you protest the next the time a conservative mayor or alderman wants to block a business because the CEO is adamantly pro-gay?

Every day as you go through life, you do business with people whose views aren’t the same as yours. If you insist on only dealing with those whose worldview mirror yours, you’re going to be like Elaine in “Seinfeld,” storming out of restaurants and breaking up with guys and wondering how you allowed Jerry to paint you into this corner in the first place.

3 Responses to “Chik-fil-a controversy turned into: a modern-day episode of “Seinfeld.””

  1. Mike Anderson Says:

    Well put. I think the CEO was kind of an idiot to say that, but differing political views shouldn’t be the reason I buy something from a business.

  2. Jeff Says:

    I absolutely agree that the government should not be intervening and saying they won’t grant permits to Chick-fil-a.

    It is not, however, just Dan Cathy expressing his personal views. If it was, I would write him off as just another ignorant jerk and forget about it. I’d probably continue to eat a Chick-fil-a too. It is the fact that his company has donated $5 million plus in the last few years to groups that actively work to stop gay marriage and persecute homosexuals. This includes groups identified by the SPLC as “hate groups.” Every chicken sandwich you buy literally helps fund hate groups.

    So no, I am not necessarily going to boycott “any company in which any executive has expressed similar views,” but if I find out my money is funding hate groups, I sure am.

    I used to love Chick-fil-a. It was the only fast food I would eat. The places were clean, the food was cooked fresh, and it seemed to be of high quality. I’m never going back though. Why would anyone with a conscience knowingly give money to hate groups?

  3. John Reed Says:

    Richard,
    I have always loved your column, your movie reviews, and was absolutely thrilled when you took over Gary’s huge void on the Roe Conn show (you are better than Gary). Thank you for being centered amid a vast sea of two sided bullsh*t. You always seem to have an affinity for capturing the sentiment of the regulars, the “take turns” demographic, the “I understand that I have to live with others and get along to pursue our interests” group. I have a friend who has been posting every couple of hours about how Chik-fil-a is an evil bla bla bla bla bla because of the (by the way ridiculous) views of the CEO. He hasn’t mentioned that in order to run his business zillions of chickens are tortured. I have always been an adamant follower and believer in the first amendment. People should not only be able to say what they want, they should. That is how the rest of us find out who is an idiot (to badly paraphrase a great quote whose author escapes me at the moment. Anyway, keep up the good work.

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