Jim Lee: Business owners entitled to views too

Society is on a dangerous path if people begin supporting or not supporting businesses based on their stand on social issues.

Last week saw all sorts of brouhaha over Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy's public stand against gay marriage. Those who agree with him staged a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" Wednesday, creating long lines at some of the company's fast food restaurants. Those opposed to Cathy's stand took the opposite view, vowing to boycott the restaurant.

I may be in the minority, but I don't go somewhere to eat based on the company or the owner's political stand. I go there because I like the food. Deciding to eat or not eat at a restaurant because the owner holds a particular political or social belief that has nothing to do with the operation of the business is something I find a bit odd.

Back during the auto bailouts a lot of people said don't buy GM or Chrysler vehicles because they got bailouts. Instead, everyone was supposed to buy Fords. It worked to some degree because Ford, which didn't take a bailout, saw sales increase.

I'm sorry, but I am not going to make what is probably the second most costly purchase after a house based on someone's political beliefs. I'm going to buy a Ford because it offers the vehicle I need at a price I can afford. And if they can't provide that, I am going to buy from the manufacturer that can, even if it is foreign made.

Businesses have a tough enough time, especially the small businesses. I'm always saddened when small businesses in our community suffer because someone or some group starts spreading nasty rumors or calling for boycotts simply because the owner put up a sign supporting one political candidate over another.

Many of those same folks who in the past have demanded boycotts of local businesses for expressing their First Amendment rights are right there at the front of the line in the Chick-fil-A debate condemning others for doing exactly what they did.

Even Sarah Palin said last week in an interview with Fox News that calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-A because of the owner's stand on gay marriage was an attack on his First Amendment rights. The hypocrisy of all the ultra-conservatives nodding their heads in collective agreement at Palin's comments, after calling for similar boycotts against those who hold views they don't agree with, is shameful.

Double standards aside though, I don't want people to assume I am for or against a social or political issue just because I happen to patronize a particular business. I mean think about it, taken to extremes, if you didn't have strong feelings for or against gay marriage, would you want to be accosted every time you went to Chick-fil-A by pro-side people booing at you, threatening you or otherwise berating you just because they mistakenly assumed you were against gay marriage? Alternatively, would you want people on the anti-side clapping you on the back when you went in, perhaps trying to get you to donate to their cause or otherwise bothering you? Or would you just want to go in, get your food, eat it and leave in peace?

Now expand that to every business where you go. Grocery shopping? Better check the brand names for where the corporations stand. Car shopping? Better not be seen at that dealership. Gas station? Barber? Do you really want to have to research every single place you go prior to going there to ensure that it is safe for your particular beliefs? And what about the place that opposes abortion, which you oppose, but supports gay marriage, which you also oppose? Guess they are off the "acceptable" list too.

Business will have to post signs with their stands on every social and political issue on the radar at the moment. And since most are like most average Americans, supporting some issues while opposing others, it all will get rather complicated rather quickly.

Wouldn't it be so much easier to just let everyone have their own particular viewpoints and live and let live? If the issue is germane to the business - a car company speaking out against basic auto safety requirements, or a restaurant ignoring laws and serving Bald Eagle - I'd probably not patronize them. But if the issue has nothing at all to do with the operation of the business, then it really is no business of mine, or concern of mine, how the owner feels about any particular issue.

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