Whether or not you find Chick-fil-A a religious experience, you won’t find any of the more than 1,600 branches open on Sunday—the family-owned business holds strict to its Christian values.
The commitment to faith is something even a non-believer could give the chicken chain begrudging respect for, putting belief above the bottom line. But on Monday, company President Dan Cathy may have taken his interpretation of Christian philosophy too far.
“Guilty as charged,” said Cathy, asked by Baptist Press to confirm his company’s support for traditional marriage. “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.”
“We’re 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,” continued Cathy. “And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”
Cathy’s comments sparked a social media firestorm. YouTube chef and comedian Hilah Johnson made a video featuring her “Chick-fil-Gay” sandwich. “I love fried chicken sandwiches at Chick-fil-A,” she explains in the clip. “The problem is, I have a lot of gay friends, and I love them, too.”
On Wednesday, The Hangover actor Ed Helms came out in support of a boycott. “Chick-fil-A doesn’t like gay people? So lame,” he tweeted. “Hate to think what they do to the gay chickens! Lost a loyal fan.”
Others on Twitter, while torn by the prospect of a life without spicy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, agreed that action was in order.
Twitter user @asilentstorm said: “Why can’t Chick-fil-A just stick to delicious chicken sandwiches & stay away from divisive remarks? Another company that won’t get my money.” Said @Nykieria: “Going through Chick-fil-A withdrawals… Yes I shall boycott them.”And @seanoconnz said “Chick-fil-A came out as antigay, now I have to feel even more guilty eating their food.”
Moving swiftly to stem the tide of criticism, Chick-fil-A responded to the backlash via Facebook early Thursday morning.
“The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect—regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender… Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”
Chick-fil-A’s coming out against gay marriage isn’t really a surprise. It donated more than $2 million to anti-gay organizations such as Exodus International and the Family Research Council in 2009, so Dan Cathy’s statement this week simply confirmed where the company has stood for years.
On some campuses across the country, the anti-Chick-fil-A activism has been gaining momentum for months.
But by coming out publically, Cathy risks making the business less hospitable to the majority of Americans who support same-sex marriage.
On some campuses across the country, the anti-Chick-fil-A activism has been gaining momentum for months. In Feburary, students at Northeastern University successfully vetoed a pending Chick-fil-A, and a similar petition by gay rights groups may boot New York City’s only location from the NYU campus. In the age of social media, image matters.
With $4 billion in sales, Chick-fil-A may not mind the fallout. But it could perhaps learn from the example of another beloved fast food chain, In-N-Out.
Privately owned by a devout Christian family since 1948, the California-based franchise prints bible verse numbers such as John 3:16 in discreet places on their cups, wrappers, and napkins. (Snopes has an excellent rundown of the many different verses). The messages are all positive, and subtle enough not to make anyone uncomfortable, but only there for those who want to find the Word.
What bugs you most about Chick-fil-A: The homophobia or the calories? Let us know in the COMMENTS.
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Oliver Lee has been covering social justice and other issues for TakePart since 2009. Originally from Baltimore, he lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn. Email Oliver | @oliverung