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Freedom for 'Phobes

It has been known for years that Chick-fil-A supports right-wing groups. The company has given out gift cards at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit. At a recent Religious Right gathering, a speaker talked about how wonderful it was to live and work in Atlanta, where, he said, there’s a Baptist church on every corner and the streets are paved with Chick-fil-A.

So I am no fan of Chick-fil-A, but I’m a big fan of freedom, and that includes Chick-fil-A’s freedom to open its restaurants, even in cities where progressive political leaders don’t like the reactionary politics promoted by the company and its owners.

There’s been a robust campaign by advocates for LGBT equality to call more attention to Chick-fil-A’s contributions to “traditional family” groups, which total in the millions of dollars. But the feathers really flew when company president Dan Cathy made comments in an interview with Baptist Press bragging about his company’s position on marriage – “guilty as charged” -- and his comments to an Atlanta radio station.

I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” said Cathy.

I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about,” he added.

It’s no surprise that Cathy’s comments have stirred supporters of LGBT equality to respond. Much of that response has been in the best traditions of free speech and protest. In Washington, D.C., this week, the Human Rights Campaign organized a protest in front of a Chick-Fil-A food truck. Other activists have rallied outside Chick-Fil-A stores and some students have protested the company’s presence on their campuses.

In addition, a number of political leaders have spoken out in defense of marriage equality and in opposition to the company’s support for discrimination. Twenty years ago, I would never have imagined elected officials taking the time to publicly criticize a business on behalf of the ability of same-sex couples to get married. It’s a good thing – a sign of amazing progress.

But a couple of politicians have gone too far – suggesting that the power of government should be used to prevent the company from opening restaurants based on its political donations and the positions of its owners. That’s not a good thing. As a matter of principle, the government shouldn’t treat individuals differently based on their political or religious beliefs, or companies based on the political activities and contributions of their owners.  As others have noted, we wouldn’t want cities or states to have the power to prevent the opening of stores whose owners support LGBT equality or other progressive causes. 

People For the American Way’s headquarters is located in the District of Columbia, where elected officials have recognized that LGBT people should be treated equally under the law. DC’s progressive public policies stand in stark contrast to the anti-equality work of groups like the Family Research Council, but we would never suggest that the DC government could or should have prevented FRC from planting its headquarters in the center of downtown DC. Our commitment to freedom and equality should extend to those who don’t share it.

PFAW Foundation

Right-Wing McCarthyism: Bachmann Wallows in a Deep Pool

USA Today editorialized this week against the rank McCarthyism of Rep. Michele Bachmann and several of her colleagues.  PFAW’s Right Wing Watch has covered the representatives’ letter, which cited professional Islamophobe Frank Gaffney as it sounded the alarm about Muslim Brotherhood penetration of the US government and urged an investigation of Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Says USA Today:

Their letter is a masterpiece of innuendo. Abedin, a U.S.-born Muslim married to a Jewish ex-congressman, is suspect because she "has three family members … connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations."

Even the innuendo is thin: Pressed for proof, Bachmann wrote that a law review article said Abedin's father, who died when his daughter was a teenager, founded an institute that had the "support" of a man who headed another group that was "aligned" with the Brotherhood. This is two decades and several degrees of separation from Abedin in 2012, but that's how a guilt-by-association smear works. Like all cheap magic, it loses its power once you know the trick.

Well put, but one small quibble: the editorial was headlined “Bachmann’s Islamist scare relaunches McCarthyism.” In fact, right-wing McCarthyism has been thriving since President Obama’s election, as documented in PFAW reports here and here.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Voter ID on trial in Texas

Attorneys for both sides gave closing arguments last Friday after a weeklong trial. Experts expect the ruling, which could come before November, will hinge on whether the defendants have successfully shown that the law has a disparate impact on minorities.
PFAW Foundation

Another Company Dumps ALEC, the 26th in Recent Months to Cut Ties

The St. Louis based pharmacy benefits manager Express-Scripts told the Center for Media and Democracy today that it had terminated its relationship with ALEC. The move was confirmed by Express Scripts head of Communications David Whitrap.

The disclosure comes at the end of a busy week for corporate defections from ALEC. On Tuesday, Express-Scripts competitor CVS announced it was cutting ties, along with four other corporations, including Hewlett-Packard Co., Best Buy, and MillerCoors LLC. In a statement, PFAW Foundation President Michael Keegan applauded the news:

The decision by these five companies to leave ALEC is an important step to do right by their customers. Their competitors who have yet to quit should know that the American people won’t forget who continues to underwrite ALEC’s agenda at our expense. Fortunately, more and more corporations, nonprofits and organizations are withdrawing their memberships. As a result, ALEC’s ability to push its dangerous agenda through our statehouses diminishes every day.

As more companies follow their competitors out of ALEC, the campaign to get corporations to ditch ALEC gains even more momentum. Those who stay with the organization will have to justify their support of an extreme anti-consumer agenda to their customers.

PFAW Foundation has taken an active role in exposing ALEC’s stealth role in promoting conservative legislation at the local, state, and federal level.

A comprehensive list of the corporations who have cut ties with ALEC can he found here.

PFAW Foundation