The ongoing saga of LGBT protests of an upcoming Chick-fil-A restaurant on campus at Duquesne University, a Catholic college in Pittsburgh, has taken on biblical dimensions as a test-case of safe spaces and microaggressions in American higher education.
According to its mission statement, Duquesne University is “a Catholic university founded by members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit,” dedicated to serving God while espousing a “profound concern for moral and spiritual values.” It also professes a commitment to “an ecumenical atmosphere open to diversity.”
For its part, Chick-fil-A CEO management has articulated a biblical understanding of marriage that exactly mirrors Catholic teaching, while also emphasizing that they do not discriminate in any way, and are more than happy to serve anyone who wishes to eat at their establishment.
In 2012, Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, stated: “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.”
“We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” he said.
Lambda Gay-Straight Alliance, the LGBT student organization on campus, considers Chick-fil-A’s commitment to traditional marriage potentially offensive to gay students, despite the obvious fact that no one is required to patronize the restaurant who doesn’t want to.
At the March 26 meeting, Lambda executive board member Niko Martini proposed that the Student Government Association (SGA) pass a resolution asking the university to reconsider the inclusion of Chick-fil-A as a dining option for students. Martini said he made the proposal on his own behalf and not Lambda’s.
“Chick-fil-A has a questionable history on civil rights and human rights,” Martini said. “I think it’s imperative the university chooses to do business with organizations that coincide with the [university’s] mission and expectations they give students regarding diversity and inclusion.”
Martini did not explain how eliminating a food establishment committed to a biblical understanding of marriage would increase diversity on campus.
Meanwhile Lambda President Rachel Coury expressed worries that the safety of LGBT students might be at risk.
“I’ve tried very hard within the last semester and a half to promote this safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community,” Coury said. “So I fear that with the Chick-fil-A being in Options that maybe people will feel that safe place is at risk.”
Debate sparked by the confrontation, swirling around a series of issues from religious liberty to gay rights to a proper academic environment, have now reached a national level, according to the Duquesne Duke, the university’s campus newspaper.
In an interview on Fox and Friends, retired U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell, an alumnus of Duquesne University, minced no words in expressing his dissent from the contemporary environment on the campus of his alma mater.
“They’re a bunch of babies. College is supposed to prepare you for the real world, not shield you from opposing opinions, and safe spaces do exactly that. Who doesn’t want as an undergrad Chick-fil-A on their campus? I would have killed for a c on my campus when I was at Duquesne,” he said.
“My message is: toughen up. there are no safe spaces in the real world,” he said. “If you’re going to be successful in this life after you leave college you’ve got to learn to embrace adversity and open yourself up to a litany of different opinions. You will never be a CEO of a major company or an entrepreneur or a manager if you are not willing to work with people different than you.”
Hostility toward proponents of traditional marriage was foreseen by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in his potent dissent of the landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case that made gay marriage the law of the land.
Alito prophesied that the misguided decision would be used to damage citizens who do not share a contemporary view of marriage as an elastic arrangement between an unspecified number of unspecified persons.
“It will be used,” he wrote presciently, “to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome