Peter St. Onge

Franklin Graham’s double-standard on boycotts

Franklin Graham thinks it’s wrong to boycott. Well, sort of.
Franklin Graham thinks it’s wrong to boycott. Well, sort of.

So Franklin Graham is outraged at New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio for suggesting others follow his lead and not dine at the local Chick-fil-A. Franklin, son of Billy, says the mayor is being intolerant of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s belief that same-sex marriage is wrong.

“Bullying,” Franklin called the boycott this week.

Yes, we’re talking about the same Franklin Graham.

Franklin says he can’t imagine why a mayor would call for a boycott of a popular business in his city. Which, from a business recruiting perspective, is true. You don’t want CEOs considering your city to think they’ll be publicly shamed if they disagree with the mayor on something.

Of course, Bill DeBlasio doesn’t have much of a recruiting problem in New York City. Other leaders, in other places, have to pay attention to those kinds of things. Like, say you’re the governor of North Carolina. You might not want to trash companies that don’t agree with you on things.

But Franklin has a bigger problem with DeBlasio’s boycott. He thinks it’s an attack on Chick-fil-A for its CEO’s beliefs. “Doesn’t this sound like bullying, intolerance and discrimination?” he said, on Facebook.

Well, it does remind us of something.

Like last June, when Franklin called on Christians to boycott Wells Fargo. The bank had aired a TV ad about a lesbian couple and their daughter. “Let’s just stop doing business with those who promote sin,” Franklin said.

Or a couple a months later, in August, when he went after Target for phasing out gender-specific signage. “Let them know that you are perfectly willing to shop where the genders God created are appreciated,” he urged his followers.

All of which pales in the face of Franklin Graham’s most courageous stand – the one he took in February against Girl Scouts selling cookies. Their sin: Belonging to an organization that supports LGBT rights.

It’s not breaking ground to note that boycotts are tricky. You can look hypocritical, for example, if you shun one company yet ignore another’s bad behavior. Also, when you call for big, public boycotts, you hurt people who aren’t part of the bigger fight. We know what that’s like in North Carolina, as concerts and conventions have gone away because of HB 2.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a stand if you think it can do a larger good, or even if you just need to make a small statement. They’re your convictions. Wear them how you’d like.

Problem is, we don’t much like it when others do the same. When we declare what we believe, it’s principled. When someone declares a different belief, it’s intolerance.

This is how we get the richness of Franklin Graham calling someone a bully for suggesting a boycott. It’s how we get students and administrators shutting down thought on college campuses because they think those thoughts are close-minded.

It’s also how we get HB 2 supporters in North Carolina denying protections to LGBT individuals, yet declaring they are the ones under attack.

How can Graham – and others – not see the obvious double-standard? Maybe it’s a different kind of blindness, a certainty that if we believe something – even something that causes pain to others – it must be honored.

But it doesn’t have to be. People can disagree. They might even decide not to have a concert in your state. If you’re having trouble figuring out who the victim is in all of this, here’s a good place to start:

Disagreeing isn’t necessarily attacking. Discrimination is.

Peter: @saintorange;