I don’t have to tell you that there has been quite a bit of noise around the internet these days about Chick-Fil-A. In all honesty, I am surprised it took people this long to catch on.
As an Atlanta native, I’ve long been aware of the Cathy family’s Christian business ethics. As a child I got cool Focus on the Family story tapes in my kids’ meals. The damn place is always closed on Sundays. The music is Christian or overtly family-friendly. Chick-Fil-A has always been a Christian business.
So, like Jonathan Merritt of The Atlantic, I really wasn’t surprised when I found out that Focus on the Family and other organizations that Chick-Fil-A donated to were ardent supporters of “traditional” marriage and family. I also wasn’t all that shocked to find out that “supporting traditional families” meant lobbying legislatures to pass laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
I wasn’t surprised, but I was sad. When I found this out, I realized that it would be a long, long time before I would be able to have that tasty chicken sandwich. I knew that I could not in good conscience give my hard-earned money to an organization that systematically seeks to deny people basic rights. This is both because I am an ardent supporter of equal rights for LGBT people, and because I am a libertarian.
Let’s be clear. I don’t care what the Cathy family believes. They could believe that all pagans should be burned at the stake, that women should be sold to men, that all but the purest of white people should be exterminated from the earth. If they believed all of that, if they wrote about it, or if they wore white hoods in all their corporate meetings, I would still eat Chick-Fil-A. It is not my place to judge someone for what they believe, no matter how abhorrent I find that belief. But the second they start using their capital to take away people’s constitutional rights, that is when I begin to boycott.
Advocacy is one thing. Belief is one thing. Asking the government to carry out your beliefs with its monopoly of force is quite another.
All those who claim to love liberty should think long and hard about where their money goes. You do not necessarily have to be gung-ho about LGBT equality to know that the government lobbying Chick-Fil-A is doing through their affiliated non-profit arms is wrong. They are asking governments to deprive people of equality under the law. Equality under the law is the basis of free societies with government. By giving money to Chick-Fil-A, you are supporting deprivation of equality under the law, and I don’t see how any libertarian could justify doing that.
The capital we earn, whether it is as a wage-earner or a business owner, is ours. But once we let go of those funds, we lose control over them. This is just. However, while we still have control over our money, we should at least point it in directions that do not undermine a free society. Those are the principles we value, and where our capital goes should reflect that to the best extent that it can.
Declining to eat at Chick-Fil-A is not about changing the Cathy family’s views. It’s not about forcing them to do what I want or to believe what I believe. Foregoing Chick-Fil-A is about exercising my freedom of choice to say that I will direct my capital to not be spent on something that undermines the foundational principles of a free society. Refusing Chick-Fil-A is about freedom of choice. Exercising it is part of what it means to be a libertarian. Not exercising it is complacency and sacrificing your values for a slab of chicken.