Because it's only "free speech" if you agree with homophobes

John Rocker of WorldNetDaily exemplifies the popular misconceptions about freedom of speech that have been all too common in the ongoing controversy over Chick-fil-A:

Technically, as our Founding Fathers intended, we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement.

He, and those who share this sentiment, couldn’t be more wrong. As they see it, COO Dan Cathy is perfectly free to declare that supporters of marriage equality are shaking their fist at God and “inviting God’s judgment on our nation”. On this, they’re certainly correct – he has every right to believe and to state publicly that those of us who favor equally recognizing the love and commitment of same-sex couples are literally provoking an all-powerful deity to cast some unspecified but vaguely threatening “judgment” on our country. And the company is entirely within its rights to contribute millions of dollars to groups that oppose LGBT equality, such as the Marriage & Family Foundation, the National Christian Foundation, the Family Research Council, and Exodus International.

Where they go wrong is in assuming that the rest of us are not free to speak out against Cathy’s beliefs and the company’s financial support of these groups. And yes, this freedom does encompass “scorn and/or ridicule”. Never in our nation’s history has the First Amendment been construed so narrowly that expressions of scorn and ridicule are inherently excluded from its protection, and we cannot legitimately expect that we will never be subjected to such scorn and ridicule by those who disagree with us. Freedom of speech encompasses even angry, uncivil, and mocking speech.

In failing to recognize that, Rocker and others are most emphatically not respecting our own “undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely”. To them, Cathy is free to depict us as being in opposition to a perfectly good God – a “non-agreement” that it’s apparently okay for us to have to fear, and which somehow does not constitute scorn by their estimation – while those of us who disagree with him do not have the freedom to denounce his views and stand up for ourselves. Their concept of freedom, for Cathy, Chick-fil-A and themselves, requires eliminating our freedom. That is not what free speech means. It is not and cannot be freedom from criticism, because criticism – whether it’s claiming we’re shaking our fist at God, or calling Dan Cathy a homophobic twit – is itself free speech. And expecting us not to let Chick-fil-A’s beliefs and actions affect our own beliefs and actions means literally telling us what to think, say and do.

Thanks to this pervasive misunderstanding, supporters of Chick-fil-A have deceived themselves into thinking they’re on some righteous crusade in defense of fundamental rights. They aren’t. The rights of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, anti-gay groups, and bigots in general were never at risk and never in question, because criticism and boycotts do nothing to prevent them from exercising their rights. But they do not have a right to our silence. They do not have a right to our agreement. And they do not have a right to our money. Those who pretend their patronage of Chick-fil-A does anything to protect freedom are cynically using an apparently noble cause as a cover for the less palatable act of consciously choosing to support a business that’s openly and unapologetically hostile to human equality.

Because it's only "free speech" if you agree with homophobes
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37 thoughts on “Because it's only "free speech" if you agree with homophobes

  1. 1

    All too many people think that freedom of speech means freedom from rebuttal, freedom from disagreement and freedom from debate. “I can say whatever I want and you can’t answer” is not freedom of speech.

  2. 2

    What is that I don’t even.

    Technically, as our Founding Fathers intended, we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement.

    The fuck?


    1. 2.1

      Exactly. Freedom of speech is supposed to merely protect you against criminal prosecution for speaking. In practice, it doesn’t really work that way, but that’s because a sheet of paper doesn’t really do anything to stop state corruption, but I digress.

      Social, professional, and civil matters were never considered to protect speech, so one person’s hate speech can result in anything from a firm rebuttal, to complete social ostracism.

    2. 2.2

      Not only does it not work that way, it COULD not work that way.

      How exactly would that work? The first person to express an opinion on a topic then owns the discussion and nobody else can weigh in?

      Not only is this wrong, it’s preposterous. Ridiculous. Asinine.

      1. It COULD work that way if free speech were selectively granted and people who had it never disagreed with other. But, as you said, that would be preposterous and asinine.

  3. 3

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Freedom of speech means that you can say whatever stupid, bigoted, or inane thing you want, but that by doing so others have every reason to say that it is stupid, bigoted, and inane. It’s quite shameful that the state of “freedom” is what it is.

  4. 6

    Technically, as our Founding Fathers intended, we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement.

    Freedom of speech: He’s doing it so very, very, VERY wrong. Scorn and ridicule is about the most HARMLESS response to free speech there is.

  5. 7

    Dear John Rocker,

    My opinion is that you’re a gibbering idiot with pea-sized balls who dry-humps anything with an alimentary canal.

    You can’t say anything back, now. Don’t infringe on me bro.

    1. 7.1

      Agreed. Also :

      Dear John Rocker,

      My opinion is that you’re well & truly off yours!

      (You do have that “off your rocker” saying over in the US States don’t you?)

  6. 8

    I agree with everything as it is stated in this article but it appears to be leaving out one important piece of this overblown debacle.

    They should have the right to support whoever, and we should have the right to speak out against it. But what about when the mayor disallows the business to exist within his city? I think that is the piece that is causing so much backlash from those coming out in support of Chik-fil-a (or at least, I would hope so).

    1. 8.1

      The responses to that I’ve seen from people have largely been those mayors are both in the wrong and actually it’s illegal. They can freely express their dislike of Chick-fil-A and their solidarity with the LGBT community, but they can’t prevent a business from opening within their cities.

      1. That’s one of the things I’ve found most frustrating about this. While the solidarity of those officials with the gay community has some value, by claiming they would use the force of government to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening stores in their cities they’ve given the opposition a perfect smokescreen behind which they can claim they’re not bigots, they’re just standing up for freedom of speech. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but it feels like a bit of an own goal.

    2. 8.2

      Mayors aren’t dictators; a mayor asking them “please don’t come here” does not translate to an actual legal barrier to establishing a place of business.

      1. These mayors didnt just ask them not to come to their cities , Infact the Boston Mayor before he was put on the hot seat, Said he would make it difficult for them to get permits. Also their are groups on campuses that are trying to force stores out of their neighborhoods because of the religious veiws of the family incharge,thats religous discrimination. Rahm Emanuall is the worst.He says that CFA doesnt fit Chicagos Values and then sits down with Louis Farrakan,who spews that Gays should be put to death. Rahm a true Hypocrite….

        1. You have a good point as I imagine that there are various legal ways of making things difficult for them to set up business. For example, strongly enforce building codes and zoning laws that would normally be given the slide for other businesses. It’s legal, but it’s still discrimination when not applied equally to other businesses.

    3. 8.4

      Incorporation documents are filed with and granted by governments. The resulting corporation has to abide by the rules the government sets, or face the dissolution of the corporation.

      In return, government grants the owners of the company special rights such as limited liability. That’s a huge privilege.

      I’m not saying that mayors should be able to ban corporations that take unpopular positions, but saying that government can’t make demands of and place limits on corporations makes about as much sense as saying “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

  7. 9

    It’s frightening to think how many people lack a basic understanding of free speech and freedom of/from religion. These people always stand up to defend these ideas when neither of them have been threatened.

  8. 10

    The question should be, why are the anti-gay groups to which chick-fil-a donate not already banned? Surely they deserve the label “hate speech”, if not full-on “terrorist”?

    1. 10.1

      Some such groups have earned that label. I am not sure about which organizations Chik-fil-a has donated to, but the American Family Association (and by extension, many of its child groups and subsidiaries) has been labelled a hate group since at least 2004 or 2005, and has been called out for hate speech long before.

      That said, hate speech is NOT protected speech. Being against same-sex marriage, being vocal about it, and even giving money to support legal prohibitions against it do not constitute hate speech, though. All of those are protected. There is nothing illegal about holding an incorrect, ignorant, nor even bigoted opinion, given that according to federal law currently in effect, same-sex unions are not recognized as legal, federal marriages, and states are not obligated to uphold same-sex unions recognized by other states in the union. (The Constitutionality of which is questionable at best, but I’m sure we are all familiar with that.)

      1. Westboro Baptist cult loons.

        Long as they’re freely allow to vomit their excrement on people there’s clearly a whole lot of freedom of speech happening. About the only good thing about ’em.

  9. 13

    Complicating the matter is the stated intent by various elected officials to block Chik-Fil-A from operating restaurants in their area. While I think (hope?) that most people are able to see the problems (both practical and constitutional) inherent in banning a business as a result of the COO’s stated political opinions, a disturbing number of my fellow progressives have been tying themselves in knots trying to justify this. I just got through a big Facebook debate before abandoning the thread in disgust.

    1. 13.1

      Every time someone repeats the “political opinions” line of bullshit, the baby Darwin cries.

      Seriously — it’s about unethical behavior. The proud public proclamation of the opinions that have given rise to that unethical behavior are just icing on the failcake. It’s rather depressing that so many people are eager to jump on the “but it’s just icing!” bandwagon. Apparently, we’re all supposed to pretend that the operation of businesses isn’t ultimately a social practice, meaning that it’s completely morally illegitimate to make decisions about zoning, licensing, etc. based on the actual material good of the community. No, clearly the only ethical approach is to toss out ethics entirely and pretend that it’s all an abstract game-theory thought experiment.

    2. 13.2

      How is it wrong for government to set conditions under which they will grant individuals the privilege of incorporation and the limited liability that comes along with it?

      Sure, political issues in general would be troublesome for the gvt. to set conditions on, but using profits from said government-created corporation to push for the oppression of minorities?

      We’ve denied corporations that “right” in the past to positive effect.

  10. 14

    Tremendous! Well-said! 😀

    I have nothing to add to this. Line by line, it says everything that needs to be said about the subject. I’ll continue to enjoy living in a state without Chic-h8s-Gay in it, and continue to wonder why Forever 21 is hiding “John 3:16” under its bags.

  11. 15

    as a pentecostal christian i have some inside information about this kind of thing—-there is a toxic strain of anti-liberty dogma in the church that is commonly referred to as dominionism—-which is basically the belief that america was founded as a christian nation(not true) and that if we dont “return to righteousness”(we were never there in the first place)God will bring some horrific judgment down on our heads—-this is the reason why they feel they have a mandate to legislate behavior

    some of the founders of this nation were christians, some were deists, a few were athiests—all of them were familiar with the abuses of the state-sanctioned church of england and wanted to prevent similar abuses here

    and i dont support chick-fil-a because i think their food sucks

    1. 15.1

      and i dont support chick-fil-a because i think their food sucks

      That’s clearly a more legitimate reason than not supporting them on the grounds of their financial support for inequality and/or mass murder.

  12. 16

    I had, blissfully, nearly forgotten about John Rocker. I think he is the perfect sort for a journalism career at World Nut Daily. He doesn’t care for the #7 Train in New York, if you recall.

    Chick-Fil-A and now Amway are two organizations I am happy to stay away from for many reasons. I recall not being able to eat grapes in the 1970’s because of the migrant farmworkers’ strikes, not eating Nestle’s products and not drinking Coke because of apartheid. Those were difficult boycotts!

    But the Conservative Christians started some ridiculous boycotts against companies such as Procter and Gamble because they had a demonic logo, of all things and for them to scream because their ox is gored now for Chick-Fil-A is not surprising.

    They are notoriously thin-skinned.

  13. 18

    While claiming to espouse ultra tolerance the LGBT crowd is pretty much as intolerant as they come. You appear to be filled with hate towards those who disagree with you. You routninely mock the beliefs of christians because they are an easy target. Why don’t you big brave LGBT kissers take on muslims at a mosque? What’s the matter? Afraid of getting your ass kicked? You are a bunch of spoiled children who make demands and force your will upon the majority. Your tatics are begining to resemblance those of the national socialists. Come on take of the gloves a declare Kristallnacht against those who disagree.

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