Note to the reader: this was originally posted as a Facebook Note, addressed to people in my social network who posted messages about their support of Chick-fil-A.
Before I ask you a serious question about our relationship, I want to make something clear.
I am an ardent defender of the First Amendment, and I think it was wrong--not merely a tactical error, but wrong--for government officials in Boston and Chicago (or anywhere) to suggest that they would use the power of public office to prevent a company from doing business in their cities just because they disagree with the political or religious beliefs of its owners. That's an abuse of power, and they shouldn't have done it.
Now, on to my question.
I am a lesbian. Do you think that means that I'm probably a pedophile?
If the answer is yes, please let me know so I can go ahead and unfriend you. If the answer is no, allow me to explain why I asked.
Chick-fil-A (not Dan Cathy as an individual, but the corporation) has donated millions of dollars to antigay organizations. Among the beneficiaries of this corporate largesse is the Family Research Council, an outfit whose relentless defamation of LGBT people has earned it a spot on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups, right alongside the likes of the Ku Klux Klan and the New Black Panther Party (surprised? Yes, the SPLC considers antiwhite rhetoric hate speech, too).
Representatives of the FRC have repeatedly asserted a link between homosexuality and pedophilia, even though numerous studies by reputable social scientists have definitively established, many years ago, that there is no factual basis for this scurrilous claim. That is one of many slanders against LGBT people that the FRC and similar groups repeat endlessly.
If Chick-fil-A continues its past pattern of "charitable" giving, some of the money you spent there Wednesday will eventually fund a propaganda campaign suggesting that I am a promiscuous, sex-crazed pedophile who aims to destroy families. That insulting caricature of me and people like me will be used to justify, among other things, opposition to laws that would prevent me from being fired just because of my sexual orientation, a kind of invisious discrimination that is still perfectly legal in 29 states. I hope you can understand why I'm not giving that a thumbs-up.
And here's my second question: if you don't believe that I'm a pedophile, and there are people going around implying that I am, why aren't you defending me against this slander? Can't I expect that of someone who claims to be my friend?
If you are a Christian who takes the Bible as a moral guide, let me direct your attention to Exodus 20:16, which says, "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."
The Bible passages that can be construed as prohibiting homosexuality for Christians are few and obscure, and their interpretation is a matter of dispute among Biblical scholars who have read the text in the original language. But lying and slander are condemned in so many passages in both the Old and New Testaments that it's hard to count them, and the injunction against bearing false witness is one of the Ten Commandments. Shouldn't Christians be outraged by corporate funding of that?
My belief is that bearing false witness made the top-ten list because defamation genuinely injures people, which means that it also violates Jesus' command to love your neighbor as yourself. And I promise you that the calumny against LGBT people perpetrated by the FRC and similar groups has ramifications far beyond denying us the social and material benefits that heterosexual couples get from state recognition of their relationships. It contributes to profound human suffering.
At my age and stage of life, my personal response to the steady stream of insults from groups like these is mostly anger and frustration, but young people who are just discovering their sexuality are deeply vulnerable in the hostile environments this kind of rhetoric creates.
According to the most recent National School Climate Survey, "84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation." The percentage of homeless teens who identify as LGBT is hugely disproportionate, and a large majority of those kids are on the street as a result of having been kicked out of their homes because of their sexuality or gender presentation. They are bombarded with messages telling them that they are disgusting, foul, sinful, unclean, and fundamentally unlovable--is it any wonder LGBT teens commit suicide at five times the rate of straight teens?
Chick-fil-A also funds Exodus, an organization that propounds "reparative therapy," which tries--and fails--to change people's sexual orientation through prayer and faith. Michael Busse, one of the founders of Exodus, renounced this approach several years ago. Busse recently joined three other former Exodus therapists in apologizing for their role in the organization.
"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families," their statement said."Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear and loss of faith that this message creates." Busse and his colleagues went on to tell some stories that illustrated the heartbreaking results of the deep self-loathing and despair that Exodus treatments create. Confronted with evidence of this failure, Busse repudiated this approach and embraced life as a gay Christian. But Exodus continues to ignore the suffering it has caused.
Unless you read lefty or LGBT media, it's likely that you haven't heard much about the organizations Chick-fil-A supports--the mainstream media has framed the story mostly as a controversy about Dan Cathy's personal views on marriage. But if you've read this far, now you know that some portion of every dollar spent at Chick-fil-A will be used to fund activities that threaten the reputations, dignity, employment rights, and even personal safety of people like me. Are you my friend? Then please don't support those efforts.