No lover of liberty will deny that every person has a right to choose how to spend their money. Or that one of the ways that we can influence people to change what they do – to do what is right (at least in our eyes) – is whether or not we do business with them: whether we buy their products and services, or get them from someone else.
Refusing to do business with someone, voting with our dollars, seems to be a very good way of dealing with political and social opponents. It is a form of the religious idea of withdrawing fellowship – interactions – with those who cause dissension and offend against others.
But at what point does this action become intimidation? And is intimidation acceptable?
Is not intimidation a type of aggression, maybe even physical aggression, against someone? Not a matter of responding defensively, but actively attacking? Initiating a form of force against them?
On Monday, 19th November 2019, activists for homosexual and transgender causes were crowing over the announcement by Chick-fil-A that the firm was ending its donations to evil, anti-diversity religious groups including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army. (Pun intended.) Since 2012, the family-owned firm has been viciously attacked for its stand against so-called homosexual marriage, which is now the law of the land in the Fifty States and elsewhere.
The action, despite efforts by Chick-fil-A to spin it, has been condemned as Christians caving to pressure by LGB+++ groups, through boycott and political action to deny the firm a presence on college campuses and even in entire cities. One critic said the company’s changes sent a clear message. “They surrendered to anti-Christian hate groups” in a bid for more money, the critic wrote on Twitter, as reported by the BBC.
The various activists seem to not be satisfied with this mea culpa, pointing out that the chain still has ties with anti-diversity groups, has not publicly affirmed its support for the various issues, and of course, continues to close on Sundays.
This is one of the more recent examples of how boycott, divestment and sanctions force individuals, organizations and even entire nation-states to cave in on various political and social issues. Another example is the Boy Scouts of America. Although the most prominent, the Palestinian BDS movement, has failed (so far) to bring the Israelis to heel, it is a favorite and often successful tool of “progressive” governments such as California, New York, and the European Union.
California, in particular, has used this tool against other States which do not have the same view of various matters, such as manmade global warming, transgender privilege, and such things. Many local governments denied the BSA traditional privileges and even rights until the BSA started “affirming” homosexuality. There are many other examples.
University administrations and airport management (almost always government agencies) have banned Chick-fil-A (and other businesses) from opening locations in their jurisdictions because of the behavior of the chains. Even though that behavior is exercising free speech and freedom of religion on the part of the owners and management of those firms.
Is this a legitimate and moral use of governmental power? Is it right for government to take such action on the part of some of the citizenry which they supposedly serve and represent? Or it is yet another example of government bullying and denial of fundamental human rights to certain persons and groups. Persons who express opinions (and act on their opinions) which are not politically correct?
Is there a difference? Can you and I, as individuals, tell someone, “I’m not going to do business with you until you ‘clean up your act,’ buddy,” and be right? But are we wrong, if we get together with our friends to push government into taking action? “Until you agree with and affirm our political positions on X, we aren’t going to allow you to do business in our jurisdiction.”
To state it in another way. If it is okay to say “I won’t buy anything from you until you stop saying or doing this,” then is it okay to say “I won’t let anyone else buy from you until you do,” as well?
How is this different from preventing someone from saying something that we don’t agree with? We call that prohibiting free speech, and believe it wrong. Is it not also wrong for governments (not individuals) to discriminate against someone – even a corporation – because they disagree with what they are saying?
Did not the campaign against Chick-fil-A cross over that line from exercising our freedoms to denying those freedoms to other. From legitimate actions to acts of aggression. Just as California crossed that line when the state government apparently prohibited its agencies, employees, and perhaps even ordinary residents of California from doing business with firms located in states which have laws or policies which do not agree with those of California.
It seems that, at least in the case of Chick-fil-A, intimidation works. It may be because the owners of Chick-fil-A do not hold as firmly to their convictions, to their faith, as they should. Perhaps their greed for profit has pushed aside the firmness of their beliefs. Does that make it right? Even if the outcome of the intimidation is “good” – we know that the ends do not justify the means. Will that work again? Should it?