The fate of Betsy Fresse, an evangelical Christian who refused to don a gay pride shirt in accordance with instructions from her manager in a Starbucks store in New Jersey is explained with remarkable concision in a recent Reuters article:
A former Starbucks Corp barista in New Jersey sued the coffee chain on Thursday, claiming she was fired illegally because she did not want to wear a ‘PRIDE’ T-shirt, which she said conflicted with her religious beliefs.
Betsy Fresse said her August 2019 dismissal from a Glen Ridge, New Jersey store, near her Newark home, for allegedly violating Starbucks’ ‘core values’ amounted to illegal religious discrimination under federal civil rights law.
This obstinate employee was apparently given an opportunity to reconsider, as NBC points out in Starbuck’s defense. Fresse received a call from Starbuck’s Ethics and Compliance Helpline after she initially eschewed the caring-sharing shirt. Since she failed to give the proper diversitarian response over the phone and in conversation with the manager, she was summarily terminated.
The fired employee thereupon sued, claiming her religious rights had been violated. To my knowledge the plaintiff was not rehired; nor was the manager who fired her disciplined; and finally Starbucks denied Fresse’s charges, insisting that it stands for “diversity,” and therefore could not conceivably have discriminated against a Christian former employee. The fault, we are left to believe, was Fresse’s appalling contempt for Starbucks’ perfectly reasonable “core values.”
Allow me to express my profound skepticism about Starbucks’ open-mindedness. Having frequented that company in the past, I could not help but notice the obtrusive reminders about the management’s politics, including cups and sugar packets adorned with leftist political platitudes. Starbucks’ CEO and founder Howard Schultz would hardly qualify as a politically detached individual. He is a socially over-the-top liberal Democrat, who according to a description in National Review is “suspicious of socialism, but woke—some might say performatively so—on immigration, LGBT issues, racial justice, and abortion.”
Starbucks spokespersons indicated that Fresse had been fired not because of her refusal to wear a gay pride shirt but because of her “comportment.” It seems this lady brazenly told her fellow-employees that God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman. This message, which presumably came in the wake of being urged to wear the LGBT-propaganda shirt, constituted behavior that Starbucks refused to tolerate.
Let’s imagine that the dissenter was a homosexual activist being forced to wear a shirt stating marriage is between a man and a woman. This assertion would not have caused the slightest scandal up until about 25 years ago, because it would have expressed what everyone across the political spectrum had always believed—or was expected to believe.
But those who, like Mr. Schultz and his media allies, are involved in a moral-cultural revolution are out to punish heretics, particularly powerless ones like low-wage evangelical employees in a coffee shop, the easiest victims to make examples of.
Would Mr. Schultz and his media allies have balked at an objection voiced by a gay activist who had been forced to wear a shirt defending traditional marriage? Would the protesting gay have been treated with the same contempt or consternation that Betsy Fresse evoked? You can bet your bottom dollar that would not have been the case. And we know why. Black Lives Matter and LGBT are top dogs in the woke hierarchy, whereas white Christians who talk about biblical teachings are holding bad cards. The high and mighty can kick them around with impunity.
But while Fresse waits to see the fruit of her lawsuit, there is a solution that might work better, and for which Schultz and other woke capitalist revolutionaries are most certainly not prepared. The little people with traditional beliefs should strike back by organizing mass boycotts against those arrogant plutocrats who scorn them and their pre-revolutionary values.
The woke Left calls for boycotts 24/7, such as those against states that did not put up transgendered restrooms fast enough to please the “LGBT community” or then-President Obama. Why can’t traditionalists imitate their enemies by embracing the same useful tactics? What would happen if the little people all over the country agreed to boycott Starbucks until Ms. Fresse’s job was reinstated with a raise and an apology from Mr. Schultz? This low-tax leftist may find he likes making money even more than beating up on the God-fearing.
There is much we can learn from the Left, starting with how to deal with the other side.
Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.