These are truly interesting times, when 70 percent of the registered voters can’t be bothered to go to the polls for an election, and yet a furor over the religious beliefs of a fast food restaurant can draw thousands of supporters to the drive-thru nationwide.
Last week we saw both.
The lack of interest on election day is something we’ve come to accept as inevitable, and that’s unfortunate. Tuesday’s primary saw a turnout of about 30 percent here in the county, which actually was a little higher than predicted, which is truly sad.
The turnout at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, however, was something remarkable, not only here but at locations across the country. The fast-food franchise has come under fire nationally for comments made by its president, Dan Cathy, in which he expressed that the chain’s ownership believes in the “biblical definition of the family unit.”
No one familiar with the Chick-fil-A company could possibly have been surprised by Cathy’s comments. The Cathy family, founders and owners of the successful restaurant chain, have never made a secret of their strong religious beliefs, even to the point of closing all their stores on Sunday despite the millions of dollars they lose by doing so.
But for some reason, in the superheated world of Internet information, Mr. Cathy’s remarks created a firestorm of outrage among those who support same-sex marriages, and then a resulting and very satisfying backlash of support for the restaurants from those who agreed with Mr. Cathy, or at least felt he had a right to express his opinion whether they agreed with him or not.
The long line of customers awaiting service at the local restaurant on Wednesday, a nationwide “appreciation day” for Chick-fil-A, was gratifying on many fronts.
Chick-fil-A is an Atlanta-based chain, so maybe those of us who have watched it grow and thrive are more familiar with its history that some of the critics who have been drawn to the debate. We know, for instance, that the company is very involved in the communities where it is located, that it is very philanthropic and that it has a legacy of being involved in good works.
We also know that ours is a country in which freedom of speech and of religion are rights granted to everyone, and that the owners of successful business have as much right as anyone to express themselves and their personal beliefs.
It is important to remember that the issue isn’t one of discrimination. No one is saying that the restaurant has illegally discriminated against anyone, regardless of their family unit.
Certainly those who disagree with Mr. Cathy can take their business elsewhere, and they too have the right to speak out and be heard.
But we have to wonder why they are, and what they hope to achieve other than perhaps gaining a few moments of fleeting media attention.