By Hannah Ihms -
“[T]o the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word... If you start with nothing, demand 100 per cent, then compromise for 30 per cent, you’re 30 per cent ahead.” That’s Saul Alinsky’s advice in Rules for Radicals.
Unfortunately for Leftists, sometimes when you start with nothing and demand everything, you end up with nothing. That’s what happened when the student chapter of the ACLU and other organizations tried to kick Chick-fil-A off of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.
The first public sign that something was afoot was two articles published on February 10, 2011 in the Daily Illini, the dominant campus newspaper. In one article, a student opinion columnist roasted Chick-fil-A as a whole because a Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A franchise donated chicken to the Pennsylvania Family Institute: “I’m not a fan of sleeping with the enemy (or feeding the enemy), and that’s what Chick-fil-A virtually did. Just because you’re not Hitler doesn’t make it OK to supply ammo to the Germans.” She went on to call for a boycott and the removal of the campus Chick-fil-A: “We sometimes forget it, but our voice is pretty strong, and if we protest hard enough, we have the power to get certain food chains we find displeasing out of the Union.”
The second article showed a small metal crucifix embedded in a Chick-fil-A sandwich and stated, “University students may be biting into more than they can chew.” It gave no details on the infamous Philadelphia exchange, simply saying, “Chick-fil-A, an original Southern restaurant and fast food chain, has been openly criticized for its transparent Christian values and conservative religious ideals.” The leap in logic was that Christian values suppressed LGBT rights, though this was never explicitly stated. Two students quoted in the article not only supported a boycott of the campus Chick-fil-A, but called for it to be banned.
A week later action on the issue was reported in a third article, which featured a photo of the campus Chick-fil-A’s “Closed on Sundays” sign. Representatives from the student ACLU chapter and OUTlaw (a campus organization formed by LGBT law students) had written a letter against Chick-fil-A to the University President and Interim Chancellor. Interestingly, two students invited to comment on the developments did not lend personal support for Chick-fil-A, but affirmed a business’s right to do what it pleased: “The University isn’t forcing us to buy Chick-fil-A. They aren’t forcing us to eat Chick-fil-A.” A member of Building Bridges, a religious LGBT group said, “I don’t think that it is necessary to try and go close it down as some of the universities have tried to do and some movements on campus are doing,”
Thus, while campus activists pulled off the gloves, they didn’t necessarily have the support of the bulk of campus.
Four days later the Daily Illini editorial board weighed in, saying “Many companies make political and social donations, and if your convictions lead you to take your business away from a company – including Chick-fil-A – that is completely within your rights. But banishing the restaurant from campus based on its adherence to religious convictions would be true discrimination."
While the students quoted by Daily Illini articles were either dead-set on removing Chick-fil-A from campus, or viewed Chick-fil-A as entitled to distasteful actions, a steady current of pro-Chick-fil-A sentiment ran through the campus news outlet’s comments section. The newspaper did not print any pro-Chick-fil-A Letters-to-the-Editor (though not for lack of trying), but at least in the comments sections students could share their thoughts, such as: “Since when is having ‘traditional Christian values’ a crime?” and “Don't you believe in diversity of viewpoint and belief?” Two Facebook pages cropped up in support of the campus Chick-fil-A.
Beyond drumming up support among registered student organizations and writing letters to campus administrators, the next key step was to pass an anti-Chick-fil-A resolution in the student-run Illinois Student Senate. This organization has elected representatives of each college in the University. While its resolutions are not formally binding, they offer significant weight for campus activists who can use the ISS’s decision to advance their goals.
When the vote was moved back a week, the president of the campus ACLU wrote in to the campus newspaper. He affirmed Chick-fil-A’s right to donate where it wanted, but called students to protest it by boycotting and taking action to remove Chick-fil-A from campus. He said, “This is not an attenuated, symbolic movement by GLBT groups. This is about taking a pragmatic look at the causes of anti-gay oppression and attempting to directly address those causes. This is saying that we are against University space being used to facilitate the filtering of funds from students to groups that wish harm upon members of our campus community.”
His views, though passionately expressed, did not reflect the views of the campus as a whole. Ultimately, after heated debate, the Illinois Student Senate voted against the resolution.
Interestingly, the failure didn’t even get a headline: the decision was buried in the middle of another article. It deserves a headline, however. It shows what can happen when political activists put political correctness above others’ rights. They can be defeated.
This is important to remember as we consider what’s happening with Chick-fil-A now. As Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Moreno try to set aside Chick-fil-A-free zones, Equality Illinois has set its sights even higher. The largest LGBT organization in Illinois has called for all 19 Illinois Chick-fil-As to be removed.
For students who will be on campuses with Chick-fil-A this fall, prepare now. Bring up the issue with your campus representatives. Get involved in your campus newspaper, or start your own. Your circulation may not rival the established campus outlets, but you can give a place for people to openly voice their views. Start a petition showing your support of Chick-fil-A. Talk to your friends, so they know what’s happening. And keep in mind that even the Illinois ACLU supported the Chick-fil-A CEO’s freedom of speech!
There will be mixed feelings about Chick-fil-A. And there must be freedom to criticize or applaud this company accordingly. For now, that freedom is alive and well at the University of Illinois. Just this summer, one student publicly expressed his displeasure with the campus restaurant, and others started a Boycott Chick-fil-A UIUC Facebook page, but others made a special effort to show their support there on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day and support a Keep Chick-fil-A at UIUC Facebook page.
If activists try to close down your Chick-fil-A, remember that the Left is making it up as they go along, and wanting something isn’t the same as getting it. A threat carries no guarantee of inevitability.