This morning we all thought the only big news was election news, and our biggest problem was going to be getting conservatives to rally behind Governor Mitt Romney or embattled #MOSen contender Congressman Todd Akin. But the students at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville (SIUe) had other matters on their minds today. Today was about chicken sandwiches and waffle fries.
It has been months since the remarks by Chik Fil A COO Dan Cathy made headline news, but they have been brought to the forefront once again on this college campus. The student government passed a resolution on September 21, 2012, calling for the removal of the Chik Fil A franchise location from the campus dining facility. The resolution was presented for the first time in that meeting, and was presented as if the student support was already there. Students reacted immediately, creating a Facebook page in favor of keeping Chik Fil A on campus.
And a debate was scheduled, a debate that took place today.
When I walked into the Morris University Center today, the differences between the opposing teams were glaring. The five students arguing for Chik Fil A’s removal were dressed neatly but casually in t shirts and jeans. The five students arguing to keep Chik Fil A on campus were dressed in suits and ties, the one woman on the team wore a skirt, blazer and heels.
The debate can be summed up as follows:
Con: the food is delicious. But is it delicious enough to ignore the discrimination encouraged by Chik Fil A through their policies and actions? They give money to known hate groups like the Family Research Council and the National Christian Council. Our opponents will try to trick you into believing that this is a debate about the First Amendment, or a religious issue. They may even cherry pick some Bible verses for you.
Pro: We are not here to debate morals. Disagreement on an issue does not indicate malice. Kicking a business off campus because you disagree with their morals is the epitome of intolerance. None of us has the right to not be offended. Also, student government failed to inform people of the vote before it happened, thus not giving students the chance to offer input prior to the passage of the measure.
Con: SIUe refused to do business with South Africa due to apartheid. They value human rights over business relationships, and queer rights apply in the same way. This university has a reputation for defending human rights and promoting social justice.
Pro: The term “hate groups” as identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center can be clarified as faith based organizations simply because they oppose gay marriage.
FRC, WinShape Foundation, marriage retreat centers that don’t allow gay couples, and the National Christian Foundation to name just a few. Chik fil a gives less than one thousandth of a percent of their income to these groups.
Con: It doesn’t matter how much money goes to hate groups, $1000 or 10 cents, there is money going to hate groups. The FRC and the KKK are the morally equivalent according to the Southern poverty law Center. They advocate reparative therapy, which is damaging to children, contributing to depression and suicide.
Pro: Chik fil a has already said that they plan to remove themselves from politics and stop donating to groups that are classified as hate groups. The First Amendment protects Chik Fil A owners and employees, and according the the SCOTUS decision regarding Citizens United, it protects them as a business as well.
Con: We don’t want to force them out, we just want them to not have their contract renewed. Chik fil a creates a hostile environment simply by being on campus – LGBTQ students have to deal everyday with the ramifications of the hatred their speech promotes. My home and my safe zone has been overrun by the hate that I have to deal with watching people eat Chik Fil A while I try to eat breakfast.
Pro: The SIUe motto “we are one” means we all have the opportunity to exist together without being the same. It doesn’t mean that we all have to morally or financially support the same things. Chik Fil A supports educating children, supporting families, and strengthening marriages. But the fact of the matter is, if students were truly offended by Chik Fil A’s presence on campus, they would vote with their dollars. Instead, they have made Chik Fil A the second most profitable franchise on campus behind Pizza Hut.
Con: It’s not a chicken sandwich, it’s what that sandwich represents. We agree that we should vote with our dollars, that’s why we believe they should be removed from campus. And this isn’t a First Amendment issue because we seek no legal ramifications. We are arguing that Chik Fil A not have their contract renewed because the hate they promote makes people eight times more likely to commit suicide.The e in SIUe is not for “extremism” “exceptions to Gods love.” After all, the Bible says “these three remain: faith, hope and love…”
Pro: You want to talk about cherry picking? Because the Bible is very clear…
Con (interrupts): What about Leviticus 18?
Pro: Actually, I’m not done talking. (applause) You can take any verse you like, and if you don’t have context you won’t understand the message.
But the best moments of the debate came when the floor was opened to the audience…
By your definition, isn’t the Catholic Church is a hate group? The Baptist Church?
Instead of trying to remove the restaurant, why not encourage your friends to just not go there and stop supporting them.
Do you have proof that Chik Fil A gave money to support the deaths of gays in Uganda or is that just a conclusion you’ve drawn?
Why do you keep quoting MLK? As a baptist preacher, wasn’t he a member of a hate group?
The matter is to be formally decided in discussions that will include student government, the campus Vice Chancellor, and a representative from Chik Fil A.