Remember in 2012 when the fast food company Chick-fil-A got in trouble over Dan McCarthy, the owner of the company, making public statements about how he opposes same sex marriage on the grounds that it opposes his Christian beliefs? Well after 2012 I was under the impression that the controversy had sort of gone away, though I later found out that the company has apparently continued to donate to anti-LGBT groups. But apparently the Church of Satan has gotten dragged into all of this a few days ago, over a few comments they made on Twitter about recent developments related to Chick-fil-A.
On Friday, the Texas governor Greg Abbott announced via Twitter that he had recently signed a bill known as Senate Bill 1978, which has also been colloquially dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill” despite not being specifically about Chick-fil-A. According to the bill, the state or other governmental entities are prohibited from taking “adverse actions” against private companies in response to the stated beliefs of the ownership. This in practice means that a company cannot be denied loans, agreements, grants, contracts or other benefits from the state, nor can they be barred from making tax deductions for charity events, nor can they be denied access to a property for forum for their purposes, among numerous other things, all based on the religious views expressed by the company or its leadership. The bill seems to have gotten the nickname “Save Chick-fil-A Bill” in response to Chick-fil-A recently being barred from opening a franchise at the San Antonio airport by the San Antonio City Council due to the anti-LGBT stance attributed to the company, most likely through the owner’s statements and the donations made to anti-LGBT groups. You can make of the bill itself what you will, but it can inferred that it has something to do with the rhetoric of “religious freedom” that has been employed by conservative US politicians over the years. Indeed it shows in Abbott’s tweet when he ends it with the statement, “Texas protects religious liberty”.
So how did the Church of Satan get involved in this one? Someone on Twitter responded to Greg Abbott’s tweet by mentioning that his business donates to the Church of Satan and bragged about how if he faced discrimination in Texas (presumably from Christians) then he could sue and win. The Church of Satan responded to this reply by asking the person not to get them involved, saying “Please leave us out of this”. When another person asked what the Church of Satan’s opinion on Chick-fil-A was, the Church of Satan responded by saying that they don’t have an opinion on the subject, saying “We don’t. Leave us out of it.”. Apparently, it was this that resulted in the Church of Satan being condemned on Twitter by progressives. Such condemnation would be understandable, perhaps even justified, if the Church of Satan took a decidedly wrong opinion on the subject, or at least straight up said that they support Chick-fil-A or Dan McCarthy (which would be absurd because that would mean the Church of Satan siding with Christian conservatism), and to be fair some of the condemnation I’ve seen still is understandable from the perspective that they are refusing to state any opposition to religious reaction, but there is a side of the condemnation that is essentially just calling the Church of Satan a far-right organization at the moment where no far-right opinion was actually being expressed. It’s a classic case of “if you are not with us, you are against us”, and I find it very fitting that such a line is being taken in particular by two Muslims. It seems that the progressives have not figured out that the Church of Satan has a policy of not getting involved in political matters or making political statements (at least not as they please anyway).
Now I must state for the record that I do not agree with this philosophy of non-involvement and non-engagement with politics, in fact I think that for them to be not evangelizing a political message attached to your organization while both their Christian enemies and their progressive rivals seize the opportunity to wage culture war puts them in grave danger of becoming irrelevant to the larger social environment (a sentiment that would surely find me no favours in the ranks of the Church of Satan). But the fact is, the Church of Satan has no desire to get itself involved in politics as a matter of organizational policy. It’s not exactly in our power to change this, and to be honest I don’t think even the membership has any real say in that, not that most of the membership are inclined to disagree anyway.
I do, however, find it quite telling that all you have to do to be a far-rightist these days is to not have an opinion on a given subject. Not even have the wrong opinion on something, just not having an opinion on something apparently suffices. Again, “if you are not with then you are against us appears to be at play”. Oh but apparently Anton LaVey (who’s been dead for over 20 years) being a “skinhead” (read: bald, not actually a skinhead) in addition to that fact is enough for the organization to be deemed far-right, never mind that the actual organization takes great pains to avoid categorical definition. I personally think of them as nominally right-wing due to their embrace of Social Darwinism and what appears to be an unstated support for classical liberalism insofar as various social positions, but this for me is not enough to simply refer to them as far-right.
For my part, I am actually prepared to offer my own take on the Chick-fil-A controversy. Obviously it is detestable that Chick-fil-A’s ownership opposes gay marriage on the grounds of religious opposition to homosexuality and that they actively support anti-gay causes, and I think that such reaction is to be opposed unequivocally. At the same time, however, I find it rather tiresome that the whole debate comes down to how immoral it is that people still buy fast food from them even after their anti-gay religious stance is public knowledge. And of course, this bothers me in particular because, if you’re at all entrenched in a socialist perspective, one based in a structural view of material conditions, you know practically at the back of your head that this view smacks of the liberal, libertarian and even (ironically enough) Randian view of humans as being purely rational agents, and that this view is profoundly unreflective of the way human behaviour actually works (seriously, do some even light research on advertising; it will change your perception of how humans think). Moreover, because cultural debates like these allow us to escape debate over the productive forces of capitalism, we are invariably led to a position where we end up condemning people for making choices that conflict with any sort of high values in a system that is engineered in such a way that you rarely get to make decisions based on any such values, and the materialities of the system unavoidable condition many people into making the wrong decisions. In sum, there’s no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism. Deal with it.