Chick-fil-A: Which side is the most rational?

The interwebs are abuzz with the ChickfilA controversy. As I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I came across this image.

Scroll down two more statuses, and I get this image:


The Internet has become a battlefield between the vehement and often visceral protesters of Chick-fil-A and heterosexual-only marriages, and the vehement and often visceral support of the chicken restaurant and heteorsexual-only marriages.

The issue for me is not about stances on homosexuality or Chick-fil-A but on how to teach proper discourse to students so that debacles this can be avoided..

By the way, it’s not a “if we should” question for me. High schoolers should be tackling this issue because it’s relevant. The conversation doesn’t have to be about whether or not gay marriage is right or wrong. If you are as comfortable with the topic as I am, you can have that debate in class (which my students had last year when they were assigned to give persuasive speeches).

It’s a First Amendment lesson – my favorite. Those simple words of “freedom of speech” cause so many headaches and teaching opportunities for me. Let’s start with the beginning of this controversy, which began way back on July 7 when N.C.-based Biblical Recorder interviewed Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy. He said: “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit … We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

So does Cathy have a right to say what he did? Sure he does, as protected by the U.S. Constitution. But does his views influence the way his company operates? Insomeplaces, he can’t legally discriminate the hiring of people based on sexual orientation. Does it make you anti-gay marriage if you eat there? There’s so much you could do here, but the focus shouldn’t be about the validity of gay marriage, but the right to speak and most importantly, its impact.

But that is hard to do many people. The nature of the debate has turn ugly, as most things do when you give the uneducated masses limitless access to a worldwide audience. If you eat at Chick-fil-A, you hate gays. If you protest Chick-fil-A, God hates you. It’s gotten to a point where enjoying the best chicken sandwich ever has become a political stance. And honestly, that shouldn’t be the case.

It is so important in this controversy to teach our children what rights we have and the consequences of those rights. I’m sure the CEOs of McDonald’s, Burger King, and the like are now going keep mum about their view on homosexuality. And Chipotle better keep its mouth shut because I don’t know what will happen to my sanity if protests happen there.

As for free speech, bring up these examples in class:

  • Sam Walton, founder of Walmart – the world’s largest employer – said this of unions: “I have always felt strongly that we don’t need unions at Wal-Mart… . The partnership we have at Wal-Mart — which includes profit sharing, incentive bonuses, discount stock purchase plans, and a genuine effort to involve the associates in the business so we can pull together — works better for both sides than any situation I know of involving unions.”. As a result, the retail chain hascomeunderfireforunderpayingemployees and been the scene of manyprotests.
  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose government indirectly owns Citgo, said in front of the United Nations assembly in New York at then President Bush was the “devil” and appealedtotheworld “to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our head.” As a result, 7-Eleven, which had a partnership with Citgo, stopped serving Citgo gasoline as its stores.

The ultimate goal is to get kids to think beyond the idiotic rhetoric that is thrown around on the Internet. Memes and Facebook copy-and-post statuses don’t really get at the heart of the matter.Require students to find the original comments. Have students investigate Equal Employment Opportunity violations (if any exist). Find other examples of how free speech has impacted business. When students investigate, they learn things. And with knowledge comes great power to make rational decisions.

It’s so hard for a teacher to keep neutral in this matter. I would love to tell my students about “the idiots” out there making noise, but I won’t say who I believe the idiots are. I do not want to influence my students, who may be inclined to take my side in order to curry favor or a undeserved higher grade. Teachers should remain neutral and ask hard questions of both sides.

It’s inherently hard for humans to do, but we strive to do so to model the rational behavior people should exhibit when dealing with a moral issue that will have what effect on the economy, which affects all of us? Hmm…..

And right now you’re probably asking the same question my students would ask in this point of the discussion: “Mr. Flanagan, what do you think?” My answer to you will be the same as it to my class: “My stance is on the side of rational thinking.”

So, which side is the most rational?