Protecting Free Speech or Supporting Bigotry?

On the issues of censorship and free speech, the erudite liberal thinker John Stuart Mill wrote “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” For, he argued in his treatise On Liberty, that “if the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

The liberal thinker John Stuart Mill was a strong proponent of free speech and expression. Yet he also warned against the tyranny of the majority and its inclination to suppress minority rights and views. Both concepts are relevant to the recent Chick-Fil-A controversy.

This thinking pretty much sums up my views on the free speech aspect of the recent Chick-Fil-A controversy. Yes, Dan Cathy’s views on homosexuality are archaic, idiotic and hateful. And yes, it is a violation of the liberal principles of free speech and anti-censorship for politicians like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to try to punish Cathy and his business for their views.

But this is where my “support” for Chick-Fil-A stops and ends—I will defend their right to express their views without government punishment. However, I completely fail to see how frequenting the establishment and giving Cathy your business and money is in anyway some honorable defense of free speech. At that point one has crossed over from simply supporting the ideals of free speech to supporting the espoused views of Cathy and his comrades in hate.

I support the right of the Klu Klux Klan to assemble peacefully. I support the right of Scientologists to hold protests against psychiatry. Hell, I even support the right of Nic Cage to keep making horrible movies and the right of Justin Bieber to keep making crappy music. But that does not mean I am going to head to the next Klan meeting, hold up a sign in the next Scientology protest against psychiatry, buy a ticket to the next Nic Cage movie, or download the next Biebtastic album. To do any of this is to move beyond a simple support of free speech into a support and validation of the views or actions being espoused or pursued by these parties.

And the same goes for those who came out en masse to buy Chick-Fil-A in light of Dan Cathy’s anti-homosexual views.

Yet it is not so much what Cathy “said” in the traditional sense that bothers me but how he has exercised his other right of “free speech”—well at least according to the Supreme Court —through his bank account.

Cathy has donated heavily to anti-homosexual groups like the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization that has condemned President Obama for supporting gay rights abroad and even tried to “moderate” the language of a U.S. Congressional resolution that condemned Uganda’s oppressive anti-gay law. According to the people at the FRC, the United States should support views on homosexuality more akin to Saudi Arabia or Iran. And as far as Uganda’s rampant and often violent anti-homosexuality is concerned, the FRC is more concerned about upholding the view that homosexuality is a perversion and not a right than in upholding the safety of homosexuals themselves.

So it is this active monetary support for powerful hate groups, more so than Cathy’s recent statements to the media, that concerns me most about Chick-Fil-A. So the next time you go out and buy a chicken sandwich in the name of “free speech,” it’s best to sit back and think before you act and ask yourself where that money is actually going.