For two years now, a good many citizens in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in connivance with local politicians and courts, have been fighting the construction of a mosque in their town. They’ve used a number of legal subterfuges, even arguing in court that Islam is not a religion, which probably came as a surprise to the world’s billion or so Muslims, though not Tennessee’s astute lieutenant governor, who keenly observed that Islam is more likely a “a nationality, a way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it.”
But outside courtrooms, the mosque opponents are pretty blunt about their real motivation: They just don’t want any Muslims butting into their town. “I didn’t say to hate ’em,” one man told CNN. “I’m just saying we don’t need ’em here.” Said another to Time magazine: “I respect their rights to worship as they see fit, but I’m not certain this promotes domestic tranquility.”
Murfreesboro’s embrace of the idea that government can be used to keep out anybody you don’t like, First Amendment be damned, has made the place a national poster child for backwoods ignorance and yahooism. But last week brought some happy news for the Murfreesboro chamber of commerce: Just proclaim your town a citadel of progressive thought, point out that Muslims don’t share your values, and then flat-out ban ’em. If anybody complains, invoke the magic words: Chick-Fil-A.
Progressive politicians from coast to coast were lining up last week to keep Chick-Fil-A’s fried-chicken restaurants out of their towns after the company’s president Dan Cathy made statements that suggested (more on that in a minute) he opposes gay marriage. Chicago alderman Joe Moreno, called Cathy “bigoted” and “homophobic” and added: “Because of this man’s ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-Fil-A’s permit to open a restaurant in the 1st Ward.” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that goes for the entire city: “Chick-Fil-A values are not Chicago values.”
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino immediately chimed in with a pledge to fight a planned Chick-Fil-A in his city. “It doesn’t send the right message to the country,” he explained. “We’re a leader when it comes to social justice and opportunities for all.” And in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee launched a barrage of threats on Twitter: “Very disappointed #ChickFilA doesn’t share San Francisco’s values & strong commitment to equality for everyone . . . Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not to try to come any closer.”
So what was it Cathy said to get his company banned from three of the largest cities in America? A reporter from a Baptist magazine, the Biblical Recorder, asked him about his “company’s support of the traditional family.” Replied Cathy: “Well, guilty as charged . . . We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
Not a word was spoken, by either Cathy or the reporter, about gay marriage, gay rights or gay anything at all. Nobody said anything about what kind of laws should be passed or rejected, or what kind of politicians should be elected or kicked out. If a man saying he’s proud to be married to a woman now amounts to homophobia, does that also mean that gay-pride marches are heterophobic?