The media’s irrational fear of Chick-fil-A

I was reading this Bloomberg analysis by Josh Barro of the most recent movement against Chick-fil-A, which I’ll share before I get to what I really want to talk about:

In Chicago, each local alderman has de facto control over neighborhood zoning. And Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno has announced that Chick-fil-A is not welcome to build a planned restaurant in his Logan Square ward because of Chief Executive Officer Dan Cathy’s comments in opposition to gay marriage.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

“If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the 1st Ward,” Moreno told the Tribune on Tuesday.

Moreno stated his position in strong terms, referring to Cathy’s “bigoted, homophobic comments” in a proposed opinion page piece that an aide also sent to Tribune reporters. “Because of this man’s ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-fil-A’s permit to open a restaurant in the 1st Ward.”

This isn’t just bad policy; it’s unconstitutional. Local governments generally have broad discretion over zoning, but they cannot use it to violate the constitutional rights of landowners. You can block a project because you think it’s too big but not because the developer is black, wants to build a Mosque or opposes gay marriage.

This issue last popped up in the debate over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, whose opponents floated various wrongheaded, and unconstitutional, strategies to block its developers from building.

Ah yes. The so-called Ground Zero Mosque. The media obsession of August 2010. You might remember how the mainstream media covered that debate. Anyone who expressed even the slightest discomfort about a mosque being built near Ground Zero (much less raising funds because of this fact) was branded Islamophobic. That was the term used whether or not those citizens expressing discomfort wanted to do what Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno have said they’ll do: use the power of the government to block the group they oppose. In fact, most of them didn’t. They just said they didn’t like it. Now my own view is that in a free country people should have the right to build whatever they want on their own property, but I wrote several posts (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) about the shoddy media coverage of people who did not agree with my views.

Time, for instance, wrote a cover story headlined “Is America Islamophobic?” The actual text of the story acknowledged no evidence to substantiate the charge, but had paragraphs like this:

Although the American strain of Islamophobia lacks some of the traditional elements of religious persecution — there’s no sign that violence against Muslims is on the rise, for instance — there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that hate speech against Muslims and Islam is growing both more widespread and more heated.

So of course I was curious how Time would cover actual government crackdowns on Christians for their speech. Boston and Chicago are big cities. The mayor of Chicago, one Rahm Emmanuel, actually backed his alderman up after he said he’d use the power of the state to block a private company for the religious views of its CEO. By contrast, you might recall Mayor Bloomberg actually moved to ease the mosque’s bureaucratic burdens back in 2010. And you have celebrities saying stuff like:

anyone who eats [expletive] Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating tortured chickens 4Christ

Her follow-up tweet is even better. You know, just “anecdotal evidence of hate speech” against Christians. So is Time‘s approach going to blare the headline “Is America Christianophobic? What the anti-chicken sandwich uproar tells us about how the U.S. regards Christians”? Is it? I just know that they are going to refer to phobias, right?

We all know that phobias are irrational fears. And if feeling uncomfortable about the construction of a large mosque near the site of a massive terrorist attack committed in the name of Islam is an irrational fear, surely using the power of the government to keep perfectly-fried chicken sandwiches away from the good people of Chicago and Boston is an irrational fear, right? So let’s check out the -phobia headline used by Time magazine in its story about this recent manufactured media outrage. Christianophobia is clunky but it’s the best parallel. Is that the phobia that will be invoked in the headline? Let’s check it out:

Boston Mayor Blocks Chick-fil-A Franchise from City over Homophobic Attitude

Wait, what?

The attitude that Time wants to call out is not the mayor’s but the one that’s on the receiving end of government’s big stick here? And we’re going to call the belief that marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman … “homophobic”? Really? Or as one political reporter I follow on Twitter put it:

Did Time magazine ever call Clinton or Obama “homophobic” when they were against gay marriage?

I don’t think we need to do a Nexis search to answer that one. These same views are called “anti-gay,” a phrase I also don’t remember being used against President Obama to describe his support of defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The article is just embarrassing in its obvious support for Menino.

It includes some more basic information about how Chick-fil-A has more than 1600 restaurants in 29 states and brings in $4.1 billion a year. And we learn that while Menino blatantly discriminates against people who hold views that differ from his, Chick-fil-A doesn’t. I suppose that’s helpful information.

But nowhere do we learn anything about people having any fear of homosexuals, much less an irrational fear of them. If you are a reporter, I think that you should learn what phobia means. And then when you learn what it means, you should use it only when referring to, well, phobias. Phobia is not a civil way to discuss views you disagree with. Leave the childish taunts to the children. And when you become a big boy or girl with a real job, start writing and speaking like an adult.

And when government officials in positions of authority are talking about infringing upon another group’s freedom because of someone’s religious views, go ahead and call up a First Amendment expert. This Time piece, you won’t be surprised, didn’t even mention First Amendment concerns. The Chicago Tribune barely mentioned them before scooting right on to something else. This New York Times piece was fine, but it didn’t mention the issue either.

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  • sari

    Agree with everything you, said, Mollie. Would like more news and less opinion in my news.

    One little thing. -phobe denotes fear, but that fear need not be elevated to a psychological disorder. Media and the public further distort the suffix by mistranslating it as hate, which is really the attitude the articles you linked seek to convey: Chick-fil-A hates homosexuals, Americans fear and/or hate Muslims. Philic/phobic here seem to mirror their usage in chemistry, where hydrophilic substances love (dissolve in) water and hydrophobic substances hate (repel, remain undissolved in) it.

    This reader would like to know whether Chick-fil-A will take legal action if Merino follows through and refuses the permit.

  • tmatt


    Of course, there are millions of liberal Christians who are fine with redefining marriage.

    Thus, you need something even more headline toxic, like TraditionalChristianophobic….

  • Gerry Carlson

    Isn’t the condemnation of Chick-fil-A also Islamophobic? Doesn’t Islam hold to similar, albeit from a different authority perspective, views about homosexuality?

  • Martha

    Mollie, tell me again about the difference between American factual journalism and European-style advocacy journalism?

    This European, in her abysmal ignorance, is so easily confused!

  • Ryan K.

    It seems this is just part of a new trend of not just having opinion within news, but turning the news into your opinion.

    How are not journalists screaming in the town square (metaphorically speaking) of society about how the owner of Chickfila never said any of the things that are being said by politicians? How is this even possible?

    How do you get to say a multi-billion dollar corporation has antigay policies without being able to cite said policies?

    At a certain point the best things our media is going to be able to do to serve the public is interview and report on itself…especially since the media is more bent on ever in making the news. Maybe Mollie it would be good for you to interview some of these reporters and ask them how they can write such things.

    Truly stunned.

  • The Old Bill

    Perhaps we need a new job title: Activist/Reporter

    Mollie, when you feel your head pounding over this, let Psalm 123 flow over you for relief.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    The AJC has a piece today “Fast-food company deals with firestorm” Noticeably absent from the coverage is any mention of how the media distorted Dan Cathy’s comments.

    The comment sparking the uproar came when Cathy told an interviewer from a religious publication that he supports “the biblical definition of the family unit,” which many, especially those in the gay community, regard as opposing gay marriage. Harder-edged remarks he made on a radio show in June also have circulated.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that the media were the ones who put his comments into the “gay marriage” context, something which he didn’t do.

  • sari

    Of course, it doesn’t help that the media were the ones who put his comments into the “gay marriage” context, something which he didn’t do.

    That he didn’t do this time, Thomas. Dan Cathy has always been forthright about his faith and that his belief system forbids gay marriage. That is his prerogative. He has never advocated discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace or in his restaurants. But one can say that, given his previous comments, he addressed gay marriage as well as divorce and non-marital partnerships. He was also misquoted by the press when they expanded on his more general statement to “quote” what (they felt) he really meant.

  • The Old Bill

    But one can say that, given his previous comments, he addressed gay marriage as well as divorce and non-marital partnerships.

    Good point, Sari. There is more to traditional marriage than the gay issue. Not that the press gets that, either.

  • sari

    Right, Bill. But why should they, when religiously mandated norms for behavior contradict their lifestyles?

    If Cathy had advocated persecution, had banned any group from his workplace or refused service in his restaurants, one could rightfully claim intolerance or bigotry. Instead he has stated (and, perhaps more upsetting to some) put his resources into organizations that subscribe to his worldview.

    Again, I would like to see how Chick-fil-A handles Chicago if their permit is refused after Merino’s and Rahm’s very public comments. At the same time, I’d also like to see the more conservative press address the reasons why large segments of the population have become actively antagonistic to traditional religion, particularly Christianity.

    btw, I hate to think of you as OLD, Bill, hunched over your keyboard, squinting through coke-bottle trifocals while tapping out your posts, one key at a time, with gnarled arthritic stubs. Perhaps I should focus on the wisdom of age, instead :>)

  • Martha

    sari, “the Bill” or “the Old Bill” is slang for the Metropolitan Police force in London, so ‘Old Bill’ may not be an agéd gentleman wearing thick glasses and huddled up in his fuzzy slippers at all!

  • Gerry Carlson

    The 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project makes it pretty clear that the Middle East, Africa, and most of the Far East rejects homosexuality. Pew Report: Views of Religion & Morality

    Will all building requests for new Mosques to be built in Chicago, Boston, et al, be denied under the same rubric re: homosexuality as Chick-fil-A?

  • Bob Smietana

    The mosque in NYC and Chick-fil-a are completely different stories.

    In the case of the proposed mosque in NYC and one here in Tennessee, the opposition wanted to stop a religious group from exercising its first Ammendment rights to religious freedom. It was direct opposition to a house of worship

    Chick-fil-a is a for profit company whose leader has taken a public stand on a divisive public issue. They don’t have a first Ammendment right to build stores.

  • sari

    Chick-fil-a is a for profit company whose leader has taken a public stand on a divisive public issue. They don’t have a first Amendment right to build stores.

    The question is to the legality of public authorities penalizing business owners for exercising their First Amendment rights. How is this different from refusing to issue a permit to an Orthodox Jew who has stated that Torah forbids homosexuality, and, by extension, gay marriage?

  • Mollie

    Bob Smietana says this is not a First Amendment issue. I’m not entirely sure what the legal case in favor of that argument (which is, I guess, that an individual has the right to practice his religion but that the government can persecute him for it), but multiple examples of government retribution against a business solely because of the religious speech uttered by the company’s CEO actually would be grounds for a story on what civil libertarians would argue are multiple First Amendment violations.

    Governments actually aren’t even permitted to enact retribution against companies because of general speech. When that speech is religious, that’s an extra layer of protection.

    For more, see Glenn Greenwald. And free speech and religious law prof Eugene Volokh writes:

    But denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation. Even when it comes to government contracting — where the government is choosing how to spend government money — the government generally may not discriminate based on the contractor’s speech, see Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996). It is even clearer that the government may not make decisions about how people will be allowed to use their own property based on the speaker’s past speech.

    The Boston Globe’s editorial page explains:

    “which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license. . . .”

    We just need to see more discussions of the First Amendment ramifications in the news pages. But acknowledging that civil libertarians and religious liberty advocates (I’m sorry, “religious liberty” advocates) view this as a “blatant” First Amendment violation would be a first step.

  • Mollie

    Sari writes:

    The question is to the legality of public authorities penalizing business owners for exercising their First Amendment rights. How is this different from refusing to issue a permit to an Orthodox Jew who has stated that Torah forbids homosexuality, and, by extension, gay marriage?

    I think what Bob is saying is that, say, a Muslim can believe what his religion teaches. But that Chicago and Boston can prevent him from being a cabbie or grocery store owner because of it. And that, further, this is not a First Amendment issue even if their grounds for keeping him from doing business in their town are his religious views.

    It’s sort of an example of the whole “freedom of religion” vs. “freedom of worship” issue we’ve been talking about in recent years. Does religious freedom exist beyond the door of the mosque/synagogue/temple/church?

  • http://!)! Passing By

    which many, especially those in the gay community, regard as opposing gay marriage.

    That’s actually fairly put. And of course, there is a history of his opposing same-sex marriage.

    I think they have been linked already, but the Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune are on record editorially opposing their politicians. Maybe we could expect some more reasoned and honest reporting on the subject.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    That he didn’t do this time, Thomas.

    Indeed, sari. But the problem with the MSM right now is that they are solely focused on same-sex “marriage” so they can’t see outside of that tunnel. Interpreting what Dan Cathy said through that rather very narrow lens rather than accurately reporting what he said is what started this whole present affair.

  • Jon in the Nati

    The First Amendment issue at stake here is not actually a religion issue, strictly speaking. It is more of a freedom of speech issue, because what we are seeing is government bodies saying that they will refuse ChikfilA licenses and permits based on the speech of its owner. This is governmental discrimination based on the content of a person’s speech, which is at very least constitutionally suspect. They’re not infringing on anyone’s right to practice their religion; the fact that Cathy was talking about religion matters very little for the purposes of a freedom of speech argument.

  • Julia

    Looks like some governmental entities and leaders are heading toward penalizing “hate speech” in the same way that Canada is beginning to do. It’s a stretch, but if being for traditional marriage is the equivalent of denigrating “marriage equality”, then Mr. Cathy might be considered guilty of “hate speech” and subject to all the consequences that might follow – such as denial of building and business permits.

  • Bob Smietana


    This is definitely a complicated issue but very different from the mosque in NYC- which was specifically about whether or not Muslims are free to build a house of worship. Straight forward freedom of religion.

    Chick-Fil-a is a different story–but you are right, still one that involves the First Amendment. The question there is, can the government punish a business owner for voicing unpopular views? So it’s a 1st amendment issue as well – only a free speech issue.

    Here’s the interesting question: Since Massachusetts allows same sex marriage, would Chick-fil-a be required to offered benefits to a same sex married couple? Or would they ask for a religious exemption to that rule?

    Baptist Press has a good story on the free speech issues involved.

  • dalea

    What I find annoying in the coverage is that while the issue is same sex marriage, no actual gay people are speaking in the coverage. It is mainly straight people talking about gay people. In past blowups of this type, like Target and Coors, the company involved very quickly put up GL employees and friends of the CEO to speak in defense of the firm. The outcome in each case was that once actual GL folks had spoken, the press lost interest. And the company made its peace with the GL community. Target added GL employees to the committee that passed on political donations, end of story. Coors was a bit more complicated: there are many more GL bar owners than conservative Christian bar owners. Coors ended up with an outreach to the GLBT community, headed by Mary Cheney, which was very successful. The lack of GL voices on the Chick-fil-a side is very strange. I wonder if it is a press failing.

  • sari

    It’s sort of an example of the whole “freedom of religion” vs. “freedom of worship” issue we’ve been talking about in recent years. Does religious freedom exist beyond the door of the mosque/synagogue/temple/church?

    Respectfully, I think Julia is a lot closer to the mark. We now have, on both sides of the fence, people intent on policing other people’s speech and forcing them into ideological conformity. That any politician would publicly state that he would withhold a governmental service on the basis of someone’s speech is frightening. This is way bigger than the religion vs. worship issue.

  • BobN

    You have to willfully ignore all sorts of FACTS to come to the conclusion that Dan Cathy, his family’s charity, and his corporation are not homophobic. This isn’t a case of them just having opinions. They have contributed tens of millions of dollars to groups whose political aims are the banning of same-sex marriage, same-sex civil unions, adoption by gay couples (sometimes even gay singles), and fighting the implementation of workplace anti-discrimination law.

    There’s a word for willful misrepresentation in Christian theology… I’m trying to think what it is….

  • tioedong

    Bob N, what organizations are they giving money to?

    Your broad definition of what constitutes “homophobia” includes the Muslims, the Catholic church, the Baptists, most African traditional religions, some Amerindian tribes, and the Chinese government (who will not allow gays to marry or adopt).

    What these groups have in common are laws and customs that work to strengthen families at many levels,(frowning on divorce, encouraging chastity before marriage and fidelity afterward, child care issues) and are not promoting hatred per se against those who have same sex attraction.

    The press coverage was bad, because it distorted his views and the views of these organizations.

  • The Old Bill

    Bob Smietana wrote:

    The question there is, can the government punish a business owner for voicing unpopular views? So it’s a 1st amendment issue as well – only a free speech issue.

    Whoa! How is expressing support for traditional marriage an unpopular view? With whom? Saying you believe that marriage is and ought to be what it has been for thousands of years is radical and unacceptable?

    And there most certainly are religious freedom issues involved. According to the Chicago/Boston model, Cathay must renounce his faith and grovel if he wants to avoid government sanctions. As Mollie pointed out, this is the freedom of worship camel sticking a lot more than its nose into the tent.

    (BTW, Sari & Martha, you’re quite right. I’m really young, vivacious and studly. I only need my reading glasses if I actually need to read something.)

  • dalea

    Something being ignored here is that ChikFilA is a franchise operation which means Cathy has very little to do with the day to day operations of any particular outlet. This seems to be an important point that is not getting the attention it deserves. Under a franchise system, the various permits needed to operate are not held by the franchisor; they are in the name of the franchisee. So, it is really empty rhetoric to talk about not giving ChikFilA a license since they won’t apply for one, the owner of the franchise will. And that person is usually a local resident.

    Interesting that we are not hearing from the franchisee’s on this.

  • MJBubba

    Martha (#4), the big media in America have been drifting leftward and away from the “American model of journalism” since the 1950s. This year the presidential campaign is entirely stripping away the final bits of the thin veneer that remained. They are so distraught that the polling remains close that they are jumping into the campaign to help Obama to re-election. Since they have been actively campaigning on the political front, there is no reason to be coy on the culture war front. Our big media feel free to be active culture warriors for the left.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    All of the misquotations and distortions aside, it’s true that Mr. Cathy does not support the political attempt to extend marriage to same-sex couples. He has contributed money (about $3, from what I can find) to organizations that oppose the political attempt to extend marriage benefits (including publicly funded benefits) to same-sex couples. So the bad journalism aside, Mr. Cathy can fairly be said to be opposed to extending same-sex marital status to same-sex couples.

    Ok, that’s settled. Has anyone linked to this Washington Post article yet? It’s amazingly balanced and doesn’t claim that Mr. Cathy’s recent remarks were directly about same-sex marriage. I do question whether Billy Graham is planning to go to CFA next Wednesday, since I’m pretty sure he’s homebound. Otherwise, decent article.

    And then there is this LA Times which doesn’t even pretend to fairness or honesty. Note that in the middle of quoting what Mr. Cathy actually said, they include this: And that doesn’t include Adam and Steve, suggests Cathy. It’s mainly hate speech directed at Christians.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    And for what it’s worth, I’m adding this episode to my list of subjects for which the news industry will ultimately pay a price, not for the bias, but for the dishonesty. As people lose respect for journalism as a profession, they will continue to move their patronage elsewhere. And that’s a shame, because good journalism can add a great deal of value to a society.

  • Bob Smietana

    The mosque and Chick-fil-a are different for another reason. The mosque opposition was based on religious identity – opponents said religious liberty did not apply to Muslims.

    No one is saying that because Mr. Cathy is a Christian he has no rights. The uproar in Boston and Chicago is that his comments were unpopular with politicians there

  • John M.


    Do you suppose that Cathy came to his opinions on “traditional” marriage from the Tao Te Ching? The fact that he agrees with the vast majority of Christians at all times and places is simply coincidental? How about the fact that he explicitly grounds his advocacy of “traditional” marriage in his own faith?

    What if I were a city councilman and chose to start denying Domino’s pizza zonings based on the founder’s belief in the sinlessness of Mary and efficacy of works in salvation, which are positions I find reprehensible? Am I not then in some way discriminating against his identity as a Roman Catholic?

    I think you are right on the horns of the “worship vs. practice” dilemma.


  • Jon in the Nati

    Respectfully, I think we’re getting way too caught up in the religion aspect of this (the potential zoning/licensing implications for CFA, that is). If a government body is discriminating in licensing, etc., based on the content of the expressed views of person or business, then that is most definitely constitutionally suspect. In such a situation, it is virtually irrelevant that the views expressed are religiously motivated. Similar discrimination against a business owner who expressed his views on why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings, would be just as constitutionally suspect as discrimination based on religious speech. It really is not a free exercise issue; it is a speech issue.

  • Mark Baddeley

    #32 I think it is possible for something to be both a free speech issue and a freedom of religion issue simultaneously. You might be right that in the current context it is easier to see how unconstitutional the position of the politicians is from the free speech issue, and that that is sufficient, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t transgress freedom of religion as well.

    People reacted badly because the CEO said that the company was staunchly behind traditional marriage – that that was its outlook and values. Yes he said that, and that’s a speech issue but part of what people are reacting to is his ‘coming out of the closet’ about convictions that are fundamentally religious in their grounding and that’s a freedom of religion issue. It wasn’t just the speech, it was what the speech claimed about the practices of the company and the reasons for it.

    Clear smoking gun on two fronts, not one.

  • sari

    Cathy did not ‘come out of the closet’ on this one. He’s always been candid about his beliefs: a particular Christian doctrine, pro-traditional family, generous with causes that support his beliefs. Recent reporting clearly sought to fan flames that had died down, not out him.

    Agree with him or not, this is a free speech issue where the speech happens to be religious in content. Should new franchisees be denied permits, given the very public statements made by politicians, that is how one would expect the case to be presented. No one is limiting Cathy’s right to believe or practice his religion.

  • c matt

    Well, to put it in a more clear first amendment context, suppose the Chicago or Boston gangstapols said they would refuse a conservative newspaper a permit to build a printing facility based solely on the expected content of the printing. Every other requirement (building codes, etc.) were met. Clearly, that would be a first amendment violation. Moreover, government permitting regulations usually have anti-discrimination provisions (and even if they don’t, would likely fall under Sec. 1983 as government action).

    Regardless, Chik-Fil-A could not have bought this kind of exposure. I wonder how it’s sales will do this month?

  • Ray Ingles

    Um, Passing By, I think you meant “Cathy] has contributed money (about $3,million from what I can find) to organizations that oppose the political attempt to extend marriage benefits (including publicly funded benefits) to same-sex couples.”

  • Ray Ingles

    Um, Passing By, I think you meant “[Cathy] has contributed money (about $3,million from what I can find) to organizations that oppose the political attempt to extend marriage benefits (including publicly funded benefits) to same-sex couples.”

  • John Pack Lambert

    Another issue that has at least been hinted at is that the journalists involved seem to not get that there is a difference between a company have a policy that is against people of one type or another (however type is defined) and the head of that company supporting government policy that defines marriage in a certain way.

    There are no allegations of mistreatment, discrimination against or other such things of customers and or employees based on sexual orientation. The fact that there is not such is at best obscured and at times totally ignored. On the other hand there are clear actions of government officials seeking to punish private individuals for speech they have made, which is a clear violation of the 1st admendment.

    I have to say that on the front of getting stores built in Chicago and Boston the government officials actions have helped Chick-fil-A. Basically there is nowvirtually no legitimate way for those cities to stop the constuction because once a city declares its open opposition to the political view of a business person and the intention to punish that person for such views, it is hard to see anything the city does as acceptable.

  • John Pack Lambert

    Mr. Smietana like most of the media seems to miss the fact that people have first admendment rights no matter what form they decide to do business. The government cannot business a for profit business because of speech made by its owner. The attempt to stop a restrunt from being built because of political speech by its owner is just as much a 1st admemdnet rights issue as the attempt to stop a religious building from being built because of views about the religion involved.

    The fact that many in the media are not willing to see this as the 1st admemdment rights issue that it is is very disturbing. If government officials can start stopping people from doing business because of political views, the 1st admendment becomes meaningless.

  • Gerry Carlson

    Stimulating discussion for the most part, but it has gotten a little off the “journalist’s reporting” topic. To be sure the nyc mosque and Chick are different, but a journalistic question remains. Have journalists written or explored the issue of same-sex marriage from the theological or ideological position of Islam? Much has been written about the Catholic Church’s position, and various evangelical voices, but can anybody point me to an article discussing Islam’s position, or exploring the implications of that position? I’d love to read it.

  • Mark C.

    Perhaps we’ve become so enthralled by psychology (in any number of ways, including using it as a foil) that it overshadows how we understand words. In a psychological context “phobia” does mean “irrational fear,” but that is not the only way of understanding a “-phobia” ending. A psychologist might diagnose someone with “hydrophobia” because they exhibit an irrational fear of water, but one may also speak of a substance or or surface as “hydrophobic.” Clearly such a comment isn’t about having an irrational fear of water. Something is hydrophobic when it repels, resists, or lacks affinity for water. To insist that “homophobic” doesn’t apply in a given situation because there isn’t an irrational fear of homosexual persons evident switched definitions and uses a logical fallacy. The ending “-phobia” in the word “homophobia” isn’t primarily connected to the psychological use to describe fears, but to the sort of use when we speak of a hydrophobic property that something might have. It’s about aversion or opposition to, not fear.

  • Passing By

    Ah! Busted by Ray Ingles. Indeed, it was $3 million, but then I read a couple more articles, and found claims that it was $3 million up to 2009, plus another $2 million in 2010. I don’t know how much of that is purely charitable work and how much to politics.

  • MJBubba

    Mark C. (#42), I disagree. The media do not have the chemistry/physics understanding of “homophobic” in mind when they use this term. I doubt if one person in fifty in the average newsrooms could explain the term in that context. The big media have adopted a framing favorable to the left, and use the gay activist’s terms when discussing this aspect of the culture war. They use “homophobic” precisely because it implies that opponents of same-sex marriage are pathological ignorant hateful bitter clingers.

  • Bob Smietana

    John (40) :you are right in that there is a first ammendment issue if the government punishes a business tor what its owner says. It’ s not a religious liberty issue – instead its free speech issue. And right now it is limited to a couple of politician saying things like Chic-fil-a is not welcome in their community. No one has taken action to block Chic-fil-a from building stores. In the case of mosques in Tn and NYC and other parts if the country terr have been lawsuits and political action aimed at keeping Muslims from exercising their religious liberty.

  • Mark C.

    Sorry, MJBudda, but that’s not how activists, “the left,” average newsroom personal, or even moderate supporters of gay and lesbian rights use and understand the term. The rhetorical flourish that treats the “-phobia” in “homophobia” in a pseudo-psychological fashion as akin to someone who has, say, a fear of heights, is a willful attempt to disarm the word by making it’s use seem ridiculous. It isn’t suggesting a panic response or the like. Homophobia simply means aversion to or discriminatory toward gay and lesbian persons.

  • John M.


    I think you are right.