Sunday, August 05, 2012

Of Free Speech and Chick-Fil-A

Dan Cathy could have saved his company, Chick-Fil-A, a lot of trouble. All he had to do was keep his views about family to himself.

Instead, he answered a question honestly. In a recent media interview, the company’s president and COO said what he believes and why he believes it. But his politically incorrect views are intolerable, judging from the anger of many on the left, including several big-city officials who are dead-set against his views.

In the interview, Cathy said he is “very much supportive of the family, the biblical definition of the family unit.” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel took exception: “What the COO has said as it relates to gay marriage and gay couples is not what I believe. But more importantly, it’s not what the people of the city of Chicago believe.”

Now, spirited debates about controversial topics are an American tradition. But it didn’t stop there. The politicians began threatening to block Chick-Fil-A’s plans to expand in their cities.

In a letter to Chick-Fil-A, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote: “I was angry to learn, on the heels of your prejudiced statements, about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail, and no place for your company alongside it.”

Joe Moreno, a Chicago alderman, told Chick-Fil-A to forget about its plans to build a second store in the Windy City: “I’m not gonna sit on the sidelines and allow them to come in when I know in my heart that they believe in discriminating against gay people.”

In Philadelphia, meanwhile, city councilman James Kenney told Dan Cathy to “take a hike and take your intolerance with you.” He also said he plans to introduce a resolution condemning Chick-Fil-A at the next council meeting.

At this point, we’ve moved well beyond debate. It’s a free-speech issue now.

These officials did not merely express an opposite point of view. They threatened to use their political power to punish a man, and those who work for him, for saying something they disagree with. The message this sent is crystal-clear -- and chilling: Conform to the “accepted” view, or else.

Emmanuel and company spoke in breathless tones about how offensive Cathy’s beliefs are. Yet what could be more offensive than what they’re trying to do? What could be more, yes, discriminatory than using the power of the state to punish private viewpoints under the guise of standing up against “discrimination”?

“You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population,” Menino said. But the company does no such thing. Chick-Fil-A hires employees and serves customers without regard to sexual orientation. The head of the company simply expressed his privately held view on the issue of family.

And it’s not just talk. The Cathy family has been a model of corporate responsibility, helping tackle social problems and strengthen civil society. For years, they’ve taken concrete steps to strengthen families through the programs of its WinShape Foundation. Founded in 1984 by S. Truett Cathy, WinShape supports college scholarships, foster care and international ministries. It works hard to strengthen marriage, offering counseling and help for couples in crisis, saving marriages that had been on the brink of divorce.

WinShape also works with other like-minded groups that seek to strengthen marriage in America. “It’s the kind of work that will take decades -- even generations,” writes Jennifer Marshall, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. “And it’s not the stuff of headlines, which is why many Americans probably have no idea this critical effort is under way.”

What does make the headlines? False and outrageous charges of discrimination from opportunistic politicians with little respect for free-speech rights.

“We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” Cathy added in the interview that led to the controversy.

After hearing the way he’s been treated since then, you have to wonder: Do we, in fact, live in such a country anymore?


Faith triumphant

So you thought God didn't have a sense of humor? You had to listen closely before NBC flipped its coverage at the mere mention of the G-word, but the moment was unforgettable - beautiful young Gabby Douglas acknowledging her faith in her moment of triumph. Her job, she said quietly while acknowledging her Gold Medal, was giving God praise while His blessings flowed down on her. That inner confidence had been characteristic throughout her Olympic performances, a faith that steadied her while the other billion of us held our collective breaths as she negotiated the balance beam.

One look at her Momma in the stands, wiping away the tears, and you knew where the strength of that heroic single parent had come from and how diligently she passed it on to her daughter. If you knew what to look for, then you understood instinctively that young Gabby had learned those priceless lessons on her mother's knees. To paraphrase Proverbs, train up a child in the way she should go; and when she is old, she will remember - even on the uneven parallel bars. Of course, you can argue with every bit of that, which simply makes faith even stronger.

And maybe, in times like these, all the more necessary. The ancient Greeks traditionally observed a truce during the Games, wondering how long afterwards the full range of human conflict might be postponed. Now the countdowns include the ongoing tragedy of Syria as well as the gathering of forces - diplomatic, military and naval - in and around the Persian Gulf, a confrontation that has built steadily for a generation. The resulting bonfire of those ambiguities might conceivably include the side-lobes of terrorism, cyber-war and energy sabotage aimed directly at an already shaky economy, from Europe to points west. But especially with summer's end already approaching, we instinctively prefer to turn our eyes from such unpleasantness, much less an election barely a hundred days distant.

Trouble is, those nasty questions about values just don't fade away, no matter how hard we try. Just look around! Now you can't even dig into a sandwich with waffle fries and a lemonade down at Chick-fil-A without somehow taking a position on gay marriage - all because the president of that company voiced his personal opinion favoring family values. Now the last time anyone checked, hatred or intolerance were not included among Christian values and, to its credit, Chick-fil-A is scrupulously fair both to its employees and its customers. Basically, you only have to be hungry and have five bucks handy to get a tasty meal served by neatly pressed young people who seem genuinely glad to see you.

However, the combination of faith with uncompromising behavioral standards is something so out of phase with the moral relativism of modern life that it just drives people crazy, particularly politicians who instinctively split every difference. Before his staff could talk some sense into him, the mayor of Boston was even talking about denying business permits to Chick-fil-A, as though he had never heard of John Adams, American history or CON Law 101.

Stupid and even bigoted but don't feel so smug until after asking yourself how you really feel about Mitt Romney's Mormonism. Just yesterday, Jeremy Mayer argued in Jewish World Review that Romney's best pick for a Vice Presidential candidate might be Congressman Eric Cantor: a brilliant budget hawk, a Virginian and best of all, Jewish. But the real reason: to shore up a conservative Christian base deeply suspicious of Mormons. "The truth is, conservative Christians are currently gaga for conservative Jews. The most fundamentalist Christians see strong support for Jewish Israel as a Biblical pact that America must uphold."

It's all just a little bit nuts-making - combining prejudices as off-setting antibodies - especially if you thought those questions had been asked and answered way back in 1960 with the election of Catholic John Kennedy. The answer might be that every generation has to make its own discoveries - or re-discoveries given the state of American education on many subjects including history. It is almost eerie how those breakthroughs occur during our most difficult times when, as Lincoln said, we must look to the better angels of our nature.

So maybe that is the gift that Gabby Douglas gave us during that summer evening of the Olympic Games, a timely reminder evident in her smile, her character and in her simple but profound faith. In the end, those simple things sustain us most in the hardest of times: family, courage and, most startling of all, that a belief in God might just be the most transcendent of all human experiences.


Single-parent families so common in today's Britain that couples are now a minority

There are close to 2million single-parent families in the UK and we have the highest proportion of children brought up in one-parent families of any major European country.

The seven areas where single-parent families are the majority are in the urban hearts of London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds.  In one constituency, Lewisham Deptford, 58 per cent of households with children are headed by lone parents.

At the other end of the spectrum, in the rural district of South Northamptonshire just one in every 20 family units is headed by a single parent.

The figures, from a Freedom of Information request to the Office for National Statistics, were greeted with concern yesterday.

Jill Kirby, a social policy expert and former director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said: ‘Children need input from both parents in order to thrive.

‘Research shows children growing up in fatherless homes are much less likely to do well at school and are at twice the risk of getting into problems with drink or drugs, or involved in crime. The UK welfare system has been partly to blame, by providing a substitute breadwinner rather than encouraging parents to stick together.’

Two years ago a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which represents industrialised nations, exposed Britain’s shocking record on broken homes.

It found we have more children living in one-parent families than any other European country and more of our single mothers are unemployed and on benefit than anywhere else on the Continent.

The study revealed 23 per cent of British children up to the age of 14 live in single-parent families, behind the US on 26 per cent. And 48 per cent of single mothers in Britain are unemployed, the highest rate in the OECD apart from Turkey.

The Parliamentary constituency with the highest proportion of lone-parent families is Lewisham Deptford in South East London, which includes such places as New Cross, Brockley and Honor Oak.

There are around 8,000 lone-parent families in the seat – represented by hard-left Labour MP Joan Ruddock – making up 58 per cent of the total.

Next comes Lewisham East and Liverpool Riverside, both on 56 per cent. Manchester Central and Vauxhall are on 54 per cent, while Birmingham Ladywood and Leeds Central are on 53 per cent.

The area where children are most likely to live with two parents is South Northamptonshire, which covers small towns such as Brackley and Towcester.

Just 5 per cent of families in the seat, represented by the Tory Andrea Leadsom, are headed by a lone parent. North East Hampshire and Wycombe are next on 7 per cent, while Devizes and South Norfolk are on 8 per cent.


Unwanted mosques in Australia:


A MUSLIM prayer room in use in a house in South Hurstville for more than 20 years is facing closure because neighbours have complained about parking and noise. But Anthony Mundine, the former footballer and world boxing champion who used the prayer room, believes the problem is prejudice, not parking.

Mr Mundine's mother, Lyn, lives next door to the home he considers his local mosque, which belongs to the El Maneh family. He stays at his mother's when he is in training for fights and lives at nearby Blakehurst. He said the street was big and wide, and every house had off-street parking, so was "baffled" by the objections. "I think it is just an excuse to shut the mosque down".

Mr Mundine said Muslims have "the worst rap on a Western scale than anybody. All that is shown is negativity; all that is shown is terrorism. I am sure if there was a church there, there would not be any petitions".

Alex Psarras, one of those who complained to Kogarah Council about the prayer room, has lived next door for 35 years. He said the El Maneh family were "very, very good neighbours" and it was nothing personal, but he was concerned the number of people attending was growing.

Kogarah Council's director of planning and environmental services, Rod Logan, said the council cautioned against further use of the site for public worship after temporary consent lapsed in March. A new development application has been lodged but will not be determined until after council elections in September, Mr Logan said.

The earlier consent restricted the number of attendees to 40. Prayer times were confined to 90 minutes at Friday lunchtimes and an hour each night during Ramadan.

Mr Logan said the council had received petitions with 16 households for and 23 against the application, but this was not reliable because many signatures appeared both for and against.

Amin Nasser of Hurstville, representing the El Maneh family, said he had never counted more than 46 people attending at a time, and all were local residents or employees. He said the family was content to accept the earlier restrictions permanently. He said they didn't want any trouble.

Mr Mundine said the closure of the prayer room made it more difficult for him to practise his faith. But it was worse for the elderly who "relied on this mosque and can't get to other mosques". There were typically 50 to 80 people at the prayer sessions he had attended, Mr Mundine said.



A controversial anti-mosque flyer distributed in Gungahlin has probably not breached the ACT’s Discrimination Act, but has prompted the Human Rights Commissioner to again call for stronger anti-discrimination laws in the territory in a report on the matter released today.

The flyer, distributed in Gungahlin by a group calling themselves the Concerned Citizens of Canberra, urged residents to oppose the construction of a mosque on The Valley Avenue because of its "social impact" on the "Australian neighbours" in the northern Canberra region.

The flyer also raised concerns about traffic and noise, "public interest" and the proposed size of the development.

ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs, who was asked to investigate concerns the flyer constituted racist material, released her advice on the matter today.

Dr Watchirs said that while the flyer was "undoubtedly offensive", the ACT’s current discrimination laws had too high a test for racial vilification for the flyer to be considered in breach of the Discrimination Act.

"It is unlikely that the flyer regarding a proposed  development of a Mosque circulated in Gungahlin would breach s.66 of the ACT Discrimination Act because it is entirely concerned with religious issues, rather than race. It is also unclear if the flyer would satisfy the high test for vilification in the Discrimination Act, which has an ‘incitement’ requirement," the advice said.

However, Dr Watchirs said complainants would likely have more success under Federal discrimination laws.

"An ACT complainant of the Muslim faith who received this flyer may have more success in the Federal jurisdiction, with the advantage of a lower threshold to establish racial hatred, as well as relying on the Explanatory Statement which explicitly envisages that Muslim people represent a racial group."

In the advice, Dr Watchirs pointed towards a review of the ACT's current discrimination laws, and recommended the Act be reformed to include better provisions for discrimination against religious groups.

"I would recommend that the ground of religious conviction be added to the current vilification protection in the Discrimination Act as a matter of priority, given the increasing incidents of this kind being reported in the media."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCHAUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site  here.


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