Matthew Shaffer over at National Review Online has written a column defending Chick-Fil-A founder Samuel Truett Cathy from the charge of vicious homophobia that the Left has tried to pin on him for allegedly supporting anti-gay groups. Shaffer makes a convincing case, but I don’t think he really gets it.
It is true that Mr. Cathy is a noted philanthropist who has been more than generous with the money he has earned from his business.
And he’s devoted his considerable wealth to a life of philanthropy. He has distributed more than $35 million in scholarships to help Chick-fil-A employees go to college, another $26 million to scholarships for students at Berry College, and another $18 million for foster homes throughout the United States. He’s been honored by the Children’s Hunger Fund, and won the Horatio Alger award and the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership, for his charity.
Incidentally, Cathy is also an enthusiastic Baptist, and one domain of his charitable giving reflects that fact. Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, includes religious language in its mission statement, and donates some money to causes like the Campus Crusade for Christ. Consequently, a meme has developed on left-leaning and pro-gay-rights websites in the past year that Chick-fil-A is virulently anti-gay. Since then, the nonagenarian Samuel Truett Cathy has gone from a noted philanthropist to a hate-figure — in two senses of the phrase — for many liberals, and has gotten a string of very negative press.
Of course, the Campus Crusade for Christ isn’t exactly a cause dear to the Left. No doubt they’d rather Cathy spend his money on global warming or keeping the red spotted eel from going extinct. But, anyway, as Shaffer argues, the causes he does support have only a peripheral link to anything gay.
But the dirt that activists have dug up on Cathy isn’t really that incriminating, even from a pro-gay-rights perspective. His top sin, according to the agitprop flyers produced by getequal.org, is financial support for the National Christian Foundation and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Also among Cathy’s anathema affiliations is Campus Crusade for Christ. (When you think Campus Crusade for Christ, you think homophobia, right? Me neither.) There is no evidence that Chik-fil-A has funded groups that are primarily devoted to opposing same-sex marriage, such as the National Organization for Marriage (which is not to imply that such a donation would demonstrate anti-gay animus).
Judging by the arguments put forth on lefty blogs, there are three additional justifications for singling out Chick-fil-A for protests: The first is a local Chick-fil-A catering for a Pennsylvania Family Institute marriage retreat at which, PFI president Michael Geer says, “At no time . . . was the subject of same-sex marriage discussed or presented” (despite what was erroneously reported elsewhere). The second is relatively small donations to the group Focus on the Family (which, despite its reputation among bien pensants, actually devotes most of its funds to charitable efforts outside of the culture war, as David French has pointed out). And the third is Chick-fil-A’s ties to WinShape, a charity with dozens of projects, one of which is a marriage retreat limited to legally married, opposite-sex couples.
But, the truth is, that none of this matters. Samuel Truett Cathy has committed thought crime by stating
While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees.
To the Left, it is not enough to love and respect anyone who disagrees. You must support their entire agenda or you are a racist, sexist, homophobe and hater. Someone as prominent as Cathy is not allowed to have a private opinion. Nothing that Shaffer has to say changes this.