“Ask a Priest: Was I Right to Skip a Pro-LGBT Restaurant?”

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Q: I chose not to go to a restaurant that had an LGBT flag on the building, and certain family members challenged my decision. They asked why I would not eat at that restaurant when I eat at Asian restaurants that have a statue of a Buddha on display or at Indian restaurants where there are symbols of their beliefs that obviously are not in sync with mine as a Catholic. In trying to respond I got confused and would like to know how to answer those questions. – K.M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is admirable that you are trying to witness to your beliefs.

Strictly speaking, though, the way you answer would depend on what your own thinking is, which only you know.

Given the context of the situation, perhaps these points are worth considering.

Few people in North America would be scandalized by Christians eating at an Asian restaurant that display symbols of an Eastern religion. Many people might perceive them more as cultural symbols.

In any case, the liberty to practice one’s religious beliefs is something the Church respects. While Catholicism differs significantly from Eastern religions, we can recognize the right of others to practice their faith.

In the case of the LGBT flag, the restaurant seems to making a statement. Its proprietors are publicly showing support for groups that promote disordered behavior which can especially scandalize young people.

Here, it is a prudential decision whether someone chooses to eat at the restaurant. If you were to go there, someone might surmise that you are in favor of LGBT behavior. In that case you might be giving scandal. My guess is that you do not want to do anything that directly supports objectively sinful behavior. Nor you do want to be perceived as supporting it.

In this particular case, people would more likely think that you support LGBT lifestyles rather than, say, Buddhist beliefs, based on your choice of a restaurant.

This is not a black-and-white situation, however. Some people might not even know what the flag is about. They might not even notice the flag. They might just assume that customers going into the restaurant are simply hungry and aiming to get a good meal.

Or perhaps the restaurant is making a simple show of solidarity with LGBT folks, as a way of acknowledging their humanity. After all, even the Church reaches out to people who struggle in this area, without condoning their behavior.

As to your specific question: Someone who refuses to patronize an LGBT-flag restaurant might do so on the grounds of avoiding scandal and not wanting to send the wrong signal. All things considered, the risk of scandal would be less of a problem in the case of an Asian restaurant displaying a Buddha statue.

I hope some of this helps.

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  1. Personally I would not patronize a business flying an LGBT flag any more than I would attend a same sex “marriage”. I have friends and a few family members that consider themselves members of the LGBT designation. I do not condemn them or judge them as people, but I cannot support their actions or support the promulgation of the lifestyle they choose. While I emphatically believe that people who live that lifestyle are children of God, as are we all, I also believe it is very important not to scandalize others especially children and young adults by expressions that imply my acceptance of an LGBT lifestyle.

  2. I think it is important to clarify that being LGBT is not a “chosen lifestyle” anymore than being heterosexual is a “lifestyle”. There is a reasonable amount of evidence that suggests that people with minority sexual orientations or identity experiences do not choose this. To boycott someone’s establishment because of who they are is, in my mind, against the way of Christ. Would any of us boycott a restaurant because of the owner’s skin color? I certainly hope not.

    Behavior is an entirely different matter. ALL of us have chosen sinful lifestyles and are in need of God’s mercy. If we enter an establishment and see that people are openly committing sin there, such as getting drunk or seeking casual sex, avoiding the establishment makes sense. To patronize the establishment might scandalize believers by suggesting that we too enjoy these sinful practices or don’t mind being tempted by them. However, to assume that someone is intentionally promoting sin because they propose solidarity with a persecuted minority is a different matter. Would any of us boycott a restaurant because there was a “Black lives matter” sign in the window, based on the assumption that the owners support riots and looting? I certainly hope not.

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