A reader alerts me to an ongoing saga from Portland. It seems that a woman named Chauncy Childs is planning to open a premium food store, a place where she can sell locally-raised and grown fresh meat and vegetables, including the non-GMO food she grows on her farm. But the people in the progressive neighborhood where she’s planning to open read her Facebook page, and found that she does not support same-sex marriage, and was kind of ugly about it. Ruh-roh! Excerpt from the Oregonian report:
Childs said she is religious and has a libertarian view that government should not be allowed to dictate whom a business does or doesn’t serve.
“We’re not going to refuse to serve anybody,” she said. “But we believe a private business should have the right to live their conscience.”
She said she believes that gay marriage is wrong because it is the start of a slippery slope that could eventually lead to pedophilia and bigamy. But she said those are her private religious beliefs and don’t reflect how the store will operate.
Childs, who owns a farm in Oregon City, said her idea was to open a place where she could sell her own GMO-free produce and dairy along with other GMO-free products made by local vendors.
Well, naturally there’s talk of boycotting her store when it opens, even though she’s spent a lot of money renovating the empty storefront. The Oregonian said that the locals had been excited about having a new store from which to buy the kinds of food they like. No more. From the story:
“They’re choosing to open a business in a very open-minded neighborhood,” said Tom Brown, owner of Brown Properties and president of the Sellwood Moreland Business Alliance. “I think their personal views are going to hurt.”
Think about the paradox of a neighborhood so open-minded that it will not tolerate the presence of a businesswoman who privately holds negative views about same-sex marriage.
But now boycott talk is swinging towards a local
thought criminal restaurant owner who said on Facebook that it’s wrong to boycott a business for the private opinions of its owner.
This comments thread started when a stay-at-home dad in that neighborhood posted a seven-minute video (now taken down) expressing angst and hostility toward the as-yet-unopened food store. One thing he said: What about the children who have to walk past that store every day, knowing that it is owned by a woman who doesn’t support gay marriage?
Yes, he said that. Portlandia!
Nick Zukin makes sense; from that comments thread:
I’m wondering, Robert, if you’ve researched any of the other businesses nearby. Who are their owners? What are their religious beliefs? Do they give money to a political party? Etc? What about your dentist, your doctor, your wine vendors? It’s a bad way to live.
Yes it is. But it looks like we’re going to be living that way, at least those of us who live among the Progressive Puritans, who keep vigil day and night to prevent witches from living among them, poisoning their wells and worse. How are we to know that Chauncy Childs won’t kidnap liberal children and bake gluten-free cakes from non-GMO flour in the back room of that foodie boutique of hers?
When we lived in Brooklyn, we routinely shopped at a local food store owned by Yemeni Muslim immigrants. If I had to bet, I would guess they held strongly anti-gay views, strongly anti-feminist views, and probably strongly anti-Christian views. But you know what? They were always polite to us — friendly, even — and their products were good. They were good neighbors. Who cares what they think privately, as long as they treat customers with respect?
When we lived in Philly, we shopped all the time at a local organic food co-op that was fairly Portlandish in its progressivism. But the food was good and the people were really nice to us. If they had known that they were dealing with a right-wing Christian troglodyte every time they saw me at the register buying food, it probably would have appalled them. And I’m sure that at least some of those workers held offensive prejudices about Christians and conservatives. But you know what? They were nice and we were nice and we enjoyed sharing the same neighborhood with them. Who cares what they think privately, as long as they treat customers with respect?
In the Philadelphia area, you run into Amish folks at farmer’s markets, selling their produce. I was told by a local foodie that long before farmer’s markets became popular, the Amish were holding the line on locally-grown fresh food. According to this person, the reason the farmer’s market movement started so early and became so strong in Philly was because of the presence of the Amish from Lancaster County and elsewhere. People love them. You think the Amish are for gay marriage? You think the Amish hold properly progressive views on sex, gender roles, or anything else? Who the freak cares?! At the Baton Rouge farmer’s market, the best local milk comes from Mormon dairy farmers, and the best chicken comes from Muslim chicken farmers. You think they are pure enough for Portlandia? In my town, which is fairly conservative, some of the most beloved businesses are run by liberals, and employ gay people. Nobody cares. Nobody should care. You are a bad neighbor if you care, and not just a bad neighbor, but an asshole.
From what I’ve read about Chauncy Childs, it sounds like she was, and is, obnoxious on the subject of same-sex marriage. She doesn’t sound like the kind of person I would want to socialize with. But if I lived in Portland, I would make a point to go shop at her store, just to take a stand against this rotten movement to investigate the personal lives and beliefs of people and ruin their livelihoods if they don’t measure up. Besides, I believe that we can’t have enough places to buy organic farm-raised meat, vegetable, and dairy. Chauncy Childs, whatever her sins and failings, has apparently invested a lot of money in opening that kind of place, a food store that the neighbors were looking forward to until somebody went online and discovered her thoughtcrime. Do you think Chauncy Childs’s mind is going to be opened to gay rights after this? Do you think this kind of thing builds community, or makes it more possible for we who live in a pluralistic community to get along better with each other, despite our differences?
Portlandia’s version of sharia is no way to live.
UPDATE: A reader posts this, which explains why the Portlandia guy took down his video:
“My name is Sean O’Riordan and on April 2nd I released a video on YouTube regarding the Facebook postings of an owner of a business that was moving into our neighborhood. I, and much of the greater community at large, found these postings to be objectionable. Since we were unable to get a reply from Moreland Farmer’s Pantry after several requests for clarification, the video containing the information was made and uploaded.
On the morning of April 3rd, John Childs, one of the owners of the Moreland Farmer’s Pantry came to my home, introduced himself and asked if we could have a conversation. I found Mr. Childs to be a man who is sincere in his beliefs and passionate in discussion.
Although he and I fundamentally disagree on several issues, we were not disagreeable in our discussions. Mr. Childs asserted that he understood our family’s position and assured us that neither he nor his wife nor their business would ever discriminate toward their customers.
Mr. Childs realized that words had been spoken and it was time for action. He proposed to donate to a local LGBT program in Portland as a show of good faith. This was before any press was involved. I agreed that was a great start and once that was achieved I would take the YouTube video down.
We shook hands and gave our word.
Soon after he and I found ourselves in front of the camera broadening the conversation. In Portland, the conversation exploded and I implore all of us to act with the dignity that we expect to receive. John and I can do that face to face. Don’t allow the anonymity of the keyboard reduce you to your worst self.
After the interviews, John reached out again via email. I have included his note below with his permission.
Thank you for taking the time today to speak with me about the Facebook posts. As I mentioned in our conversation, neither Chauncy nor I have a discriminatory bone in our bodies. We abhor discrimination in any form. But what we abhor more than that is anyone imposing their will on someone else even when they are in the right.
I believe our post said that “of course a business can discriminate against gay people”. I apologize, we probably could have chosen a better subject to express the view that we should not restrict anyone’s right to free speech and expression, even when we disagree with them. Other businesses and people can discriminate as much as they want, but to their detriment. Our business does not and will not discriminate.
We understand how this post could have been interpreted as anti-gay but I assure you that was not our intention in the least.
Thank you again for your understanding ear.
At 4:56 pm 04/04/14 I received a confirmation of a sizable donation from Mr. Childs to Equity Foundation,http://www.equityfoundation.org/, a Portland based LGBTQ foundation.
The purpose and mission of the Equity Foundation is to “leverage resources to create social, economic, and political equity for the LGBTQ community”.
Mr. Childs kept his word as I have mine; The video has been removed and perhaps light has been shed on a subject that runs pretty deeply in our community. We have agreed to disagree. In a healthy, open society people are free to not want to patronize any business that does not fit their value system, and they are free to try to persuade other people to do the same. While I wish John well, I will continue to shop with businesses that align with my values.
My hope is that the day will come when equal rights for all is no longer an issue. Sadly, we are not there yet, but perhaps we are just a little closer.
So Sean O’Riordan is still going to boycott this guy’s store. Sounds to me like John Childs wasted his money donating to the LGBT organization as a show of good faith. This is about purity.