As a chicken fan, I was sad to miss the opening of the UK’s first Chick-fil-A earlier this month. But it seems the people of Reading won't have long to sample the American chain's tasty delights, as its been announced the restaurant will soon close.
This is directly due to political pressure from Reading Pride. They've claimed that "Chick-fil-A is anti gay". While this rhymes superbly, I don’t think it is true.
Firstly, how can a company that employs and serves anyone and everyone regardless of their sexual orientation be ‘anti-gay’?
The wrap, if you’ll pardon the pun, comes when when we dig into what Reading Pride said, and discover that the issue isn’t actually with the company at all, but with the views of its CEO. He happens to hold the same view of marriage held by the majority of churches in the UK (not to mention the vast majority of Muslims).
If Chick-Fil-A really were "anti-gay" they wouldn't have donated food to the victims, blood donors and first responders of the shocking and evil Pulse Nightclub shooting. It's notable how the chain not only reached out to the gay community in this way (Pulse was a gay nightclub) but how they chose to open on a Sunday in order to do so. Under normal circumstances, Chick-Fil-A closes on Sundays, due to its founder's Christian convictions.
In launching this campaign, Reading Pride has set themselves up in opposition to anyone who has a different opinion on marriage (although they don't seem to be boycotting the numerous takeaways in Reading which serve Halal food and are no doubt owned by Muslims who also have traditional views on marriage). Reading Pride has even taken issue with how Chick-Fil-A have donated some of their profits to the Salvation Army! The same Salvation Army who have an incredible reputation for their humanitarian work around the world. Does Reading Pride want to put Salvation Army out of business, just because they too hold a traditional Christian ethic on sexuality?
Some Christian commentators might call "persecution" on this story, but that simply isn’t the case. This is a textbook case of intolerance.
Tolerance is “the willingness to accept or tolerate someone or something, especially opinions or behavior that you may not agree with, or people who are not like you”. I don’t think that Reading Pride have conclusively demonstrated that Chick-Fil-A is "anti-gay". At best they’ve shown that Chick-fil-A has supported mainstream Christian charities such as the Salvation Army, and that the CEO said something traditional about marriage back in 2012.
Peter Tatchell, the veteran human rights commentator, recently said that Pride is becoming "capitalism in a pink hue". It’s difficult to see how the ‘victory’ of closing a chicken restaurant advances any cause, except the "cause" of preventing people from having different opinions.
Speaking during the Ashers Bakery case, Peter Tatchell offered what I think is an instructive viewpoint: “Although I profoundly disagree with Ashers' opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be forced to facilitate a political idea that they oppose. If the original judgement against Ashers had been upheld, it would have meant that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be forced to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial."
We need to be able to talk carefully and honestly about the important issues and challenges facing our culture. Peter Tatchell, myself, and I’d imagine most people want to live in a truly tolerant society, not one where people are forced to act against their conscience, or people holding particular views are excluded from society.
Tom Creedy works in Christian publishing and serves as theologian at large at the south west London vineyard. He blogs regularly at thomascreedy.co.uk and is the author of the forthcoming short book Sex for Everyone?
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