“We will not tolerate intolerance!”

This is essentially the cry of the many lobbying for the removal of Chick-Fil-As across the country or the arrest of its expansion as a whole. The result of our widespread and growing tolerance is this ironic recurrence of intolerance. This issue has recently come to a very obvious head in the controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A and its founding biblical principles. Dan Cathy has been accused of many things, among them anti-gay sentiments and policies. The truth, one will find, has been greatly misrepresented and distorted to unnecessary and rather shameful proportions.

It should be noted, first and foremost, that Cathy never even mentioned gays in his interview. Instead, he only expressed his views on same-sex marriage. He is merely of the opinion (based, it is true, on his interpretation of the bible) that same-sex marriage goes against the traditional views of marriage and does not foster the proper emotional nourishment essential for the well-being of a child.

People are entitled to their opinions, whether or not we agree with them. The essence of America is the fire with which we preserve the rights and beliefs of individuals, with the full knowledge that we may disagree sometimes.

We expect to be respected, hence we must respect. I don’t see protesters at every halal butcher shop protesting against the way Muslims want their meat. Just because Muslims believe pork to be unclean doesn’t entitle me to publically malign their belief. Although I don’t share their beliefs, we coexist in a state of mutual tolerance. I support their right to free speech and ideology just as they support mine, and the moment that ends is the moment America ceases to be.

It is perfectly reasonable, perhaps the moral responsibility of a conscious citizen, to decry a figure or organization for hate or prejudice. What you may be surprised to hear is that Chick-Fil-A is guilty of neither. The supposed “anti-gay” and “LGBT hate groups” that received donations from Chick-Fil-A are actually Christian organizations that provide spiritual ministry to those who wish to find an escape from homosexuality, because, believe it or not, some LGBT people want to be heterosexual.

Would you criticize an organization that tried to help heterosexuals sort out their desire to be homosexual? They don’t force their beliefs on everyone, and although this person in this or that organization may have made some polemic political statements, those views are in no way a reflection of Chick-Fil-A itself. Let us also not forget, as we have been quick to do, the $37 million in scholarships given out to college students or the various millions that fund marital counseling services and team-building.

What many have also overlooked is the actual involvement and participation of Chick-Fil-A employees and managers on a site to site basis. Brace yourselves: Chick-Fil-A both hires and serves LGBT people. Does that sound like gay hatred or prejudice? Anthony Piccola, Chick-Fil-A’s franchise operator, declares has declared Chick-fil-A’s mission to  “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.” Cathy himself says, “while my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees.”

In this time of economic hardship, when jobs shouldn’t be taken for granted, it just doesn’t make sense to condemn and boycott a business and so hurt the economy and the very LGBT employees you are trying to defend, not to mention the various charities and scholarships supported by Chick-Fil-A enterprises. It also is not fair to the Chick-Fil-A employees who receive the hatred and very strong views of both sides of the issue. Need I even mention the delicious worth of waffle fries, spicy chicken sandwiches, and milkshakes?

Dan Cathy tolerates others’ advocacy for homosexuality but expects tolerance and respect for his own beliefs in return. It’s perfectly within your right to boycott Chick-Fil-A, but when it comes to tolerance, practice what you preach.

Jonathan Warkentine is a College Freshman from Almaty, Kazakhstan.

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