Did Chick-Fil-A's Dan Cathy disrespect gay marriage or didn't he? That is the question exercising the tiny world of religion news criticism, wherein GetReligion's redoubtable Terry Mattingly has chastised the MSM for supposing that he did. Here's the quote from the small CNN blog post that launched 1,000 comments and stirred tmatt's ire: “'Guilty as charged,' Cathy said when asked about his company’s support of the traditional family unit as opposed to gay marriage." Quoth tmatt:
Now, one would assume — after reading a reference to the “comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage” — that this interview from the Biblical Recorder in North Carolina (which was circulated by Baptist Press) actually included direct quotes from Cathy in which he talks about, well, gay marriage.
In this case, one cannot assume that.
While the story contains tons of material defending traditional Christian teachings on sexuality, the controversial entrepreneur never talks about gay rights or gay marriage. Why? Because he wasn’t asked about those issues in the interview.
This raises an interesting journalistic question: Is a defense of one doctrine automatically the same thing as an on-the-record attack on the opposite doctrine? In this case, is it accurate for CNN (and others) to say that Cathy made comments about gay marriage when, in fact, he did not speak words addressing that issue?
Well, didn't tmatt know about Chick-Fil-A's long-standing opposition to gay marriage. Well, yes, of course he was aware of that old news, he wrote in a second installment. Whereupon dotCommonweal's stalwart Grant Gallicho leapt into the fray, pointing out that tmatt had done a little selective quoting of his own.
Your current scribe felt obliged to repair to the original story, from the Biblical Recorder by way of Baptist Press:
Some have opposed the company's support of the traditional family. "Well, guilty as charged," said Cathy when asked about the company's position.
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.
The key sentence here is: "Some have opposed the company's support of the traditional family." That's how the reporter, K. Allan Blume, chooses to couch (in indirect discourse) his question. What are we to assume about the nature of that opposition? We know the answer, because there's been a lot of controversy about Chick-Fil-A's opposition to gay marriage (as opposed to, well, second wives).
We also know what "traditional family" signifiies. There happens to be a traditional family movement out there, and here's how one of its supporters describes it: "a burgeoning alliance of white evangelicals, conservative Roman Catholics and African-American Protestants for whom gay marriage is like abortion: non-negotiable.”
OK then. When Cathy called himself "guilty as charged," he was acknowledging that, yes, the folks who have been opposing Chick-Fil-A for opposing gay marriage were correct in their understanding of the company's position. Slightly obliquely, but clearly enough for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Cathy was talking about gay marriage. Sorry, tmatt.