July 22, 2012
Religion, Freedom and Homosexual Marriage in America:
An Open Letter to Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy
Dear Mr. Cathy:
I hope that we can have a civil discussion on the statements you recently made in support of "traditional marriage."
First, let me express my respect for you. From the little I know about you, you are attempting to follow more of your God's commandments than many other Christians who fixate on homosexuality (because they are not homosexual) while ignoring the many things that their God condemns that does apply to them. (See Life Among the Baptists: One Outsider's Perspective) I have always admired that you put the command to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy above profits --- that's rare in America. From what I understand you honor your father, you have had only the one wife, your company gives to charities and supports education. These are all things that I can and do respect.
I also appreciate Chick-fil-A's commitment to treat people with honor, respect and dignity even when you disagree with them. Personally, I can say that although I rarely eat at Chic-fil-A I do occasionally get a chicken salad there and have always been treated with politeness.
Let me state clearly and upfront that I wholly support your right to not believe in homosexual marriage. This is something not said by my side very often, and it should be. You have every right to hold your personal belief in the wrongness of homosexual marriage.
My objection comes from your attempt to use the government to force your personal, religious beliefs on those who do not share them.
I suspect, like many Christians, you believe that Christian values are the basis of our government. A common example is the Ten Commandments and our legal system. So let's take a close look at the Ten Commandments and the American jurisprudence. I'm going to use myself as an example because, as a good Christian, I would hope you would not do any of the following......
I can not worship Jehovah and can worship any gods/goddesses I choose. I am even free to not worship any deity at all. I can make graven likenesses anytime I want to and worship them if I want to. I can use the names of god as curse words and frequently do. I can and have worked on the Sabbath. I dishonored my parents. If I want to, I am free to commit adultery, lie about my neighbors and envy anything I see. None, none, of those things are a crime even though they are all in the Ten Commandments. I can even kill. I can kill in self-defense or in defense of others. I know a man who restrained someone and killed him when he was completely helpless. The man was a prison guard, and it was a legally sanctioned execution. Out of the ten commandments, there is only one that is widely illegal in America, "Thou shalt not steal." I say "widely" because if I sit here long enough and think about it, I can probably come up with legal ways to steal. For a few of the other commandments there are specific circumstances where they are also against the law (adultery in the military, killing defined as murder/manslaughter, lying about a neighbor to the point it causes damages can be libel). Overall, though, I'm free to break the Ten Commandments, and it's perfectly legal here in America.
The two most important commandments in your religion are stated in Matthew 22:37-39. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." According to Jesus Christ there are no more important commandments than those two. Yet, as important as they are, they are not part of our legal system. They are not law. Do you think they should be? Do you think the US government should have the power to force everyone to follow those two commandments?
Do you think that breaking any of the Ten Commandments should be a crime punishable by the law?
If any part of you is thinking "YES!", if any part of anyone reading this is thinking "YES!" let me tell you something about myself first. I am not a Christian. You've probably figured that out. What you don't know is I come from a family of Buddhists and Shintoists. Shinto is an ancient religion. It pre-dates Christianity. It even pre-dates Judaism. The origins of Shintoism go back to animism which is probably the first form of worship that human beings did. If you haven't figured it out, it means the family I am referring to is Japanese --- my Japanese mother immigrated to this country after she married my American born father. The traditional, majority religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shintoism. Christians are a minority. Japan currently has freedom of religion, and in Japan I have an aunt and three cousins who converted to Christianity. Because they hold a minority belief, do you think the government should force them to follow Buddhist/Shintoist beliefs? Beliefs which they do not hold and have rejected? I'm betting your answer is "NO!"
Yet you think that the power of the government here should be used to force other people to follow your religious beliefs.
Because in your support to legally define marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman that is exactly what you are doing. You are trying to enforce your personal, religious beliefs on everyone including people who are not members of your religion or who have a different interpretation of that religion.
Pause for a moment to consider that you would grant people in Japan the right to practice their individual religious beliefs while you want to take away that right from people in your very own country. The reason why? Because other people in this country don't share your religious beliefs, so, since you feel you have tradition and numbers on your side, you think you have the right to use the government to enforce your beliefs. Let me ask you: Is that really what you want this country to be? A country that chooses religion over freedom?
Yet one of the fundamentals of your religion is the idea of man having free will. Admittedly you're using your free will to try to force everyone in this country to adhere to your concept of marriage. And if you were doing this solely through preaching, through handing out pamphlets, through advertising, I would support your right to do those things. But you support groups who are trying to do this through law, through the government. That's my line in the sand. And if you truly believe in religious freedom for everyone, as I hope you do, that should be your line.
If, on the other hand, you only believe in religious freedom for people who share your religion and specifically your interpretation of your religion, I hope reading this will make you rethink. I realize when certain people in this country say "religion" they don't mean any non-Christian religion and surely don't mean Muslim --- their places of worship should be banned. But I wonder if they realize the path they want to take this country down......religious freedom for them & theirs and a religious dictatorship for everyone else. I say dictatorship because, more and more, the route people are trying to use to enforce their religious values on everyone else is not preaching, it's legislating.....religious values codified into law with the iron fist of government behind them.
Along with much of the Bible, I have read the passages that condemn homosexuality. I am correct in saying that those verses are the origins of your belief, am I not? If you additionally think that homosexuality is "unnatural," that opinion is based in ignorance. I would urge you to read Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity by Bruce Bagemihl to get the scientific facts on how common homosexuality is among other species. It is far from unnatural as it exists throughout nature. Human beings are just one of many species that practice homosexuality. According to your viewpoint, these are animals made by God, innocent of the knowledge of good and evil, yet these animals are bisexual and homosexual.
I absolutely respect your right to hold your religious belief against homosexual marriage. You are free to not marry a man. In fact, you did not marry a man and that was your free choice. How does your freedom to make that choice extend to forcing other people to make the same choice? Like the same freedom you had, other adults should be free to marry whom they choose.
I'm not saying you have to like their decision. It's called "tolerance" from the Latin tolero (bear, endure) for a reason. Because you tolerate the decision. You bear it. Endure it. Not like it, not embrace, tolerate it. The same way I tolerate other people's smoke in public though I despise smoking to the depths of my being.
I'm not saying you have to think that homosexual marriage is a good idea. Frankly, I think many heterosexual marriages are a bad idea. In fact, I think many marriages period (both heterosexual and homosexual) are a bad idea. Since the divorce rate in this country is 50% for first marriages, 67% for second marriages and 74% for third marriages,1 it's clear to me that many people who are in those marriages also come to believe it was a bad idea. The difference is that there were instances when I believed that ahead of time while the people in the marriage took a while to come to that conclusion. The thing is, even if I think it's a bad idea, I don't want to have the legal power to prevent that marriage. I certainly don't want the government to have the power to prevent that marriage. When it comes to marriage, I believe that adults should have the freedom to make those decisions themselves. Even if it's a big mistake, it's their mistake to make.
So, I don't expect you to change your mind on homosexual marriage. I absolutely support your right to hold to your beliefs for yourself. I just would like you to consider your reasoning on why you think the government should force your personal, religious beliefs on people who do not share them.
Very truly yours,
Maggie A's Meanderings
1Divorce data from Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.
Christian Boone, Chick-fil-A president says company opposes gay marriage, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 19, 2012 (accessed July 2012).
Gregory Thomas, Chick-fil-A president reiterates company’s stance against gay marriage, The Washington Post, July 19, 2012 (accessed July 2012).
K. Allan Blume, 'Guilty as charged,' Cathy says of Chick-fil-A's stand on biblical & family values, Baptist Press, July 16, 2012 (accessed July 2012).
For more of my views on government and marriage, read "Ingloriously A Bastard? Mississippi and Miscegenation." Please take a moment to check-out the Archive.