Tim Cook, Starbucks, Religious Freedom and Diversity

A customer with a cup of coffee leaves the new Starbucks store in San Jose, Calif., June 20, 2012. | (Photo: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Recently I was asked to speak to a civic organization on the topic of diversity. Diversity, in the current vernacular anyway, is one of those words that defies a simple definition. I was looking over my notes beforehand in Starbucks trying to think of concrete examples when I saw a poster in the storefront encouraging people to apply for employment with the franchise. It read:

You'll notice it the moment you walk into one of our coffeehouses—the partners who work here are a diverse group of people who reflect the local community. We offer a welcoming environment that embraces individual differences and encourages mutual respect. If this appeals to you ... let's chat.

Striking up a conversation with one of the baristas, she told me that their employee handbook contained much of the same language and gave me one. She was right. Of their "six guiding principles," diversity figured very prominently.

However, our mutual respectfest was interrupted by the recollection that the company's CEO, Howard Schultz, had made the very public pronouncement that anyone who didn't like their support of gay marriage could get their lattes elsewhere.

So much for diversity.

In my coffee I had found an unexpected ingredient: a working definition of what the Left means by "diversity"—acceptance of everything they like.

Not to be outdone in corporate social responsibility rhetoric, Apple CEO Tim Cook has now weighed-in, joining the growing chorus of voices condemning Indiana's religious freedom law. Like Schultz, Cook is quick to tell us how much he loves all things diverse—provided your definition of diversity doesn't conflict with his definition of diversity.

Following the same playbook as A&E in the Phil Robertson controversy, Cook suggests Indiana's religious freedom law is not Christian: 

"I have a great reverence for religious freedom. As a child, I was baptized in a Baptist church, and faith has always been an important part of my life. I was never taught, nor do I believe, that religion should be used as an excuse to discriminate."

Tim Cook should stick to making shiny tech gadgets because he is certainly no theologian. What obscure Baptist denomination did young Tim Cook ascribed to? I know of no major Baptist denomination that would have taught him that homosexuality, much less gay marriage, was consistent with Christian belief. Indeed, part of being a member of any Christian denomination that takes the Bible seriously—and most Baptists do take the Bible seriously—is learning to be discriminating about a great many things, sexual preferences among them.

To add emotional force to his argument, Cook appeals to the patriot in us all:

"Men and women have fought and died fighting to protect our country's founding principles of freedom and equality. We owe it to them … [to] protect those ideals."

Okay, sure. I agree. Who other than the Ayatollah doesn't? But let's be clear what Cook is really saying here: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness … for everyone who embraces the gay agenda.

Cook's statement is so laced with the patriotic that one pictures him at one of those Apple conferences with a Starbucks in one hand, the latest iProduct in the other, and a Pattonesque American flag as his backdrop:

"This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage …"
The problem with a sentence like that, full as it is with platitudes that make us all feel warm and fuzzy but contains nothing of actual substance, is you can plug almost anything into it and make it sound good:

"This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing gay marriage takes courage …"

See, anyone can play this game. And let's be clear: opposing gay marriage these days does take courage. (Just imagine my email and Twitter after this article.) Cook would have us believe that homosexuals are a persecuted minority. Who really believe that anymore?

According to the International Society for Human Rights, Christians, not homosexuals, are the most persecuted group in world. The Indiana religious freedom law is designed to prevent discrimination against Christians and protect the historic teachings and practices of that religion, nothing more. The law does not force anyone to believe what Christians believe. By contrast, Tim Cook and the Cultural Left are demanding that those who oppose gay marriage on moral grounds—and 45 percent of Americans do—not only tolerate the institution, but endorse it. Now remind me again who is being discriminated against here?

Mr. Cook's narrative notwithstanding, it is doubtful that the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence or who stormed the beaches at Normandy fought and died for gay marriage. We do know, however, that they believed this: "We hold these truths to be self evident ..."

Exactly what truths do we, as a nation, hold to be self-evidential anymore? Religious freedom? No. Sexual practices? Amusing. Marriage? How quaint.

Diversity for diversity's sake has been elevated to the status of a national virtue and I can't help but notice the fact that this stands in odd contrast to our national motto: E Pluribus Unum—"Out of Many, One."

Larry Alex Taunton is the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation. He is author of The Grace Effect. Twitter: @larrytaunton

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