Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chick-fil-A: Too Chicken to Embrace Equality?

In a July 16th article, the Baptist Press profiled Chick-fil-A president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy. Chick-fil-A, a U.S. fast food restaurant that specializes in chicken, is an openly Christian organization that has been accused of employment discrimination and anti-LGBTQ sentiments. Cathy spoke of the history of the chain restaurant and the Christian ideas that permeate its culture. The article has drawn attention, however, because Cathy replied "guilty as charged" on the issue of Chick-fil-A's "support of the traditional family."
"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."
Cathy trumpeted his support for the opposite-sex marriage earlier this summer as well. On the June 18th edition of The Ken Coleman Show, Cathy accused people who do not value opposite-sex marriage of having a "prideful, arrogant attitude" at the 31:18 mark. Cathy said this in the context of a discussion on fatherless families, but his words may have referred to same-sex marriage supporters. (Hat tip to Good As You.
"I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say 'we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."
Cathy's remarks have ignited a media firestorm, drawing both praise and criticism. CNN reports that Chick-fil-A's social media was a buzz with both supportive and angry comments. Amidst the firestorm, Chick-fil-A posted a statement on Facebook, stressing that their business culture strives ""to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."

This is not the first time Chick-fil-A has been accused of antipathy toward LGBTQ equality. Equality Matters reports that Chick-Fil-A's charitable arm, WinShape, has considerable sums to anti-gay Religious Right groups such as Exodus International, Family Research Council, and the Georgia Family Council. In 2011, Chick-fil-A was criticized for its connections to the anti-LGBTQ Pennsylvania Family Institute and "The Art of Marriage" seminar. Supporters of LGBTQ rights have protested Chick-fil-A in New York, Boston, Los AngelesTallahassee, Philadelphia, and other cities, citing its support for anti-LGBTQ groups.

High profile voices have taken Chick-fil-A to task for Cathy's remarks. For instance, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has vowed to ban Chick-fil-A from the Freedom Trail, asserting that Boston is an "open city" at the "forefront of inclusion," according to the Boston Herald. “If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies,” Menino warned. Additionally, Richard Tisei, who is running against Rep. John Tierney for a Massachusetts representative seat, told Politico that “nowadays most Americans recognize that in this country, everybody should be treated equally and fairly under the law," and that he probably wouldn't eat at Chick-fil-A.

Several pro-equality organizations have spoken out against Cathy's remarks as well. Human Rights Campaign criticized Dan Cathy's statements and is encouraging supporters to sign a pledge condemning Chick-fil-A's antics. Also, in a July 20th press release, People for the American Way president Michael Keegan criticized Chick-fil-A supporting anti-gay groups.
"Chick-fil-A said that ‘going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.’ Left unsaid is that the company pours millions of dollars into anti-gay groups that work in the political arena to change the government’s policy on same-sex marriage. But it gets worse. Many of these groups not only oppose marriage equality, they’re actively promoting bigotry and opposing efforts to end anti-gay discrimination and bullying."
Naturally, some Religious Right voices have rushed to Chick-fil-A's defense. Writing at the Cloakroom blog of FRC Action, Congressman Joe Pitts defended Chick-fil-A, insisting that it is not a "discriminating or hateful organization." He praised the restaurant for "running a family-oriented business model" and celebrating the "traditional family structure."  

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) also weighed in. In a July 19th post at the NOM blog, NOM called Dan Cathy a "corporate hero for marriage." In another post, Brian Brown encouraged readers to  participate in Mike Huckabee's "National Eat at Chik-fil-A Day" on July 25th.

Ever the homophobe, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association lambasted the "gay lobby" for its anger at Chick-fil-A. In a July 19th column at Rightly Concerned, Fischer accused "hatemongers of the homosexual movement" of seeking to obliterate Chick-fil-A. He used his usual hyperbolic language to paint pro-LGBTQ advocates as hateful voices, not Cathy.
"Gay activists are not interested in debate. They have a singular goal: to punish, silence, neutralize, marginalize and destroy anyone who defends the institution of natural marriage against deviant counterfeits. Hell hath no fury like a woman-who-thinks-she’s-a-man scorned."
Rather than embrace the reality that same-sex marriage and diverse families are acceptable, Cathy and his defenders cling to a narrow definition of family. Chick-fil-A's right-wing leanings have never been secret, but for the company's COO to publicly admit such leanings will have large repercussions. By alienating customers who support LGBTQ equality, Chick-fil-A may have dealt itself a serious blow.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Truth Wins Out: Chick-Fil-A Stands Firm On Support For Hate Groups

Good As You: Chick-fil-A's flippant response to years of LGBT controversy: 'Guilty as charged'

The New Civil Rights Movement: NOM Joins ‘National Eat At Chick-Fil-A Day’ — ‘Neutral’ Demand Ditched?


  1. I tend to stay away from Chik-Fil-A; I feel uncomfortable knowing what my money supports.

    1. Postmormon Girl -- I never eat there either. I'm glad the truth is coming out about them.

  2. If I need a chicken biscuit (and sometimes I just DO) McDonald's has one that I think is yummier than that place. And a sandwich also.

    I have not eaten there in almost 2 years now!

    1. Left Leaning Lady -- I never eat there, and will DEFINITELY avoid the chain now. I think the last time I ate there was back in grad school about ten years ago. I bought some waffle fries at the student center while waiting for a shuttle.


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