It’s Wrong To Ban Businesses With Wrongheaded Views. But It’s Fine To Boycott Them.

Chick-fil-A’s contributions to anti-gay causes have triggered calls for both a boycott and a day of support.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

The politics of chicken sandwiches has never been more fascinating. It all began when Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy made clear his far-right views on same-sex marriage, and attention was drawn to Chick-fil-A’s significant contributions to anti-gay causes. That triggered a move to boycott the company by people—myself included—who said we shouldn’t spend our dollars at a company with views so fundamentally at odds with our own. Then there was a countermove. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas called on all those who agreed with Cathy’s narrow-minded views to eat at Chick-fil-A on Aug. 1.

The battle was only just getting started. Actor and comedian Steve Martin mocked the company in a tweet: “Had dinner at Chick-fil-A, then I married a man. There was something about that sandwich…”

But some reactions went too far. Christine Quinn, New York City Council speaker, suggested that perhaps restaurants whose owners had discriminatory views shouldn’t be in the city at all. I haven’t seen her suggesting the Catholic Church leave town, even though its views on same-sex issues mirror those of Chick-fil-A’s president. A New York Times editorial properly rapped her knuckles for her position.

There is an important line here. The folks whose views are at odds with mine or yours of course have the right to run their businesses, as long as they comport themselves in accordance with the law. They shouldn’t be prevented from opening their shops and selling their wares. Government has no business telling them what to think or how to proselytize.

But we as consumers also have every right to take our dollars somewhere else. So much for the chicken sandwiches I used to love. And while we’re at it, there are a couple of other companies that I am thinking about leaving behind. Brawny paper towels are owned by the Koch brothers, who fund every far-right super PAC under the sun. I don’t know if Bounty really is the “quicker picker-upper,” but I’m going Bounty over Brawny from now on. And I don’t know if Koch-owned Angel Soft toilet paper is more squeezable than Charmin, but I will be buying Charmin.

Point is—they all have the right to make their goods and be here and proselytize all they want, but we as consumers have the right—I might even say obligation—to react accordingly and take our dollars to companies that will not support far-right causes we fundamentally disagree with.