Chick-fil-A, an American fast food chain founded by S. Truett Cathy in 1986, used to be best known for peddling chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. Of course, Chick-fil-A’s reputation has recently taken on a new and, seemingly, more profitable dimension.
Having initially established its roots in food courts across the American south, Chick-fil-A now operates 1,614 restaurants in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Cathy, now ninety-one and very much a part of the day-to-day operations of Chick-fil-A, designed the corporate culture of his chicken empire to blend seamlessly with his Southern Baptist, Christian-like beliefs; which is his perfect right.
The company’s official proclamation of corporate purpose, for example, states that the business exists: To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.
Now headed by S. Truett’s son, Dan, Chick-fil-A’s current business model is to increase its market share, ostensibly while also serving God, to include the American Midwest, the Philippines, Mexico and Southern California.
As if by coincidence, as Chick-fil-A seeks to improve its place among America’s growing array of fast food options, it has found itself in a national debate over the right to free speech, same-sex marriage and, of all things, Christian values – three topics, when deep-fried and served with a side of waffle fries, seems a magical combination for generating a great deal of timely and necessary free publicity.
The controversy over Mr. Cathy’s right to free speech began after his appearance on the Ken Coleman Show in June, 2012. Mr. Cathy stated, “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.’ 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;” which was his perfect right to say. He could have said it while doing a hula for all I care. I, like most people, have heard it all before.
At the same time, the Biblical Recorder published an interview in which Mr. Cathy was asked about his support for the traditional family. Mr. Cathy replied, “Well, guilty as charged.” He went on to add, “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 want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that. We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles;” which, again, is a demonstration of his perfect, inalienable right to say whatever he likes.
But there’s more.
In July, 2012, Equality Matters, published a report detailing Chick-fil-A’s contributions to organizations that oppose same-sex marriage.
Clue Number One: Previous to all the interviews and information-gathering, Chick-fil-A had been selling chicken sandwiches (but not on Sunday) to Americans who really didn’t care if they were served by messengers of God.
Clue Number Two: There will always be those who will take a stand against something or for something, if there is a buck to be made from it.
Clue Number Three: Our national drama over Chick-fil-A is not really an argument over free speech, same-sex marriage or Christian values. It is simply an effective pairing of hot topics that, when properly seasoned, can be expected to generate a larger market share for Chick-fil-A.
Clue Number Four: See Clue Two.
Is it surprising that Americans would express a strong opinion toward censorship of speech, same-sex marriage and religious freedom? The genius paring of these three topics, however, has placed a relatively unknown chicken sandwich franchiser smack in the middle of two of today’s most heated debates. Freedom of speech isn’t really a hot topic, but it may have been added, like a dipping sauce - the glue that binds the topics of same-sex marriage and Christian values to a chicken sandwich.
Clue Number Five: Multi-million dollars companies don’t make too many careless and preventable marketing mistakes, without a great deal of planning, especially when they are trying to achieve a larger market share.
For the same reason that Sarah Palin, Westboro Baptist Church, George Bush the lesser, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage and our so-called conservative leaders exist, the Chick-fil-A controversy now exists. The ideas some of us imagine these people represent are really our enduring belief that some people truly do believe in the same things in which we believe. As crooked and narrow as our beliefs may be at times, if there is a buck to be made, there will always be someone to embody them.
Frankly, very, very few people on either side of the Chick-fil-A controversy, want to prevent Mr. Cathy, or anyone for that matter, from exercising h/er First Amendment right to free speech. Certainly no one wants to debate Mr. Cathy’s right to declare his opinion that marriage is a union between one man and one woman or to maintain, discuss or freely express his belief in the value of being Christian. We’ve heard it all already - so many times, in fact, we have stopped listening. We have moved along and we are now just waiting for Time to work its magic.
Personally I don’t agree with any position Mr. Cathy takes, publicly. In fact, as a gay veteran of the United States Air Force, I would fight to my death to protect Mr. Cathy’s right to say whatever he wants. I emphasize the word publicly because I am sure that Mr. Cathy and I share a number of similar values and opinions on a number of issues. What I will not protect or tolerate, however, is Mr. Cathy’s attempts to use his great wealth to influence my government, my lawmakers and my fellow Americans to prevent an already-marginalized group of Americans from accessing their Constitutional rights as American citizens.
That is where I and most people who oppose Chick-fil-A draw the line and where the argument begins.
Clue Six: Mr. Cathy’s right to freedom of speech has NEVER been the issue.
Clue Seven: Mr. Cathy’s right to practice his chosen religion has NEVER been the issue.
Clue Eight: Mr. Cathy’s opinion of same-sex marriage has NEVER been the issue.
It’s no secret that Chick-fil-A holds itself out to be a Christian-like fast food chain – whatever sense those two merged concepts happen to make. What raises the ire of human rights groups is Chick-fil-A’s sponsorship of political activities that result in legislation to limit the Constitutional rights of other Americans. What is at issue is Mr. Cathy’s stand and, by default, Chick-fil-A’s financial support of efforts to intentionally hinder or obstruct a select group of Americans from pursuing their birthright to life, liberty and happiness under the United States Declaration of Independence based simply on a difference in ideology.
So if you’re standing in line for a soggy chicken sandwich and some dry waffle fries in the name of God and Country, go home and turn on Jerry Springer. Your stand is not for what you believe it to be. You have been hoodwinked. You have just been an extra in a month-long TV commercial. I wonder, though, if this controversy were against Gold’s Gym, would everyone have run out to stand in line for a chance to work out?
A majority of Americans would express disgust toward any individual, group or business that funded any of the documented 1,018 active hate groups that now exist in the United States. Americans, however, often lolly gag when it comes to recognizing and then granting equal rights to marginalized groups. In fact, we have a long and colorful history of preventing marginalized Americans from claiming their inalienable rights. Thankfully we also have a long history of picking up the pace and making improvements to our less-than-optimal social policy. We often begin to make amends by regulating behavior and speech. In fact, behavior and speech that is intended to prevent Americans from living freely, without harm, fear or intimidation is the bench mark of what we, as a society, are eventually not willing to tolerate. After all, isn’t freedom of speech the position the Westboro Baptist Church was declaring when it picketed the funerals of American military soldiers – a freedom that Congress recently curbed for the social good?
The debate over the right of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered people to live their lives freely in this country, without fear, threat or discrimination – to live as Americans – will ultimately come to an equitable resolution – similar to any of the other American human rights initiative we have seen or read about from the past. Yes, there will be those who will drag their feet; and there will be those who will forever linger on the fringe of our society, pining for the days when faggots, queers, dykes and fairies hid in the bushes, afraid, and could be freely hunted. Those days are rapidly coming to a close. In the end, fairness and equality does win over everything else in this wonderful country of ours.
Clue Nine: When you set out to show support for Chick-fil-A, be sure to do your hair and nails and wear your best Bermuda shorts and stretch pants. You will likely end up in a history book, in a picture captioned In support of intolerance and bigotry: People waiting in line for a chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A circa. 2012.
We should not forget that we Americans have achieved each of our cherished milestones for social justice by limiting speech and retraining behavior. Most civilized societies do that to some extent. Where would we be, after all, if we didn’t regulate how we discuss people of different races, handicapping conditions, cultures, religions or national origins? What would society look like if our efforts to empower every American with h/er right to human dignity didn’t include some limitation on behavior and speech?
But I digress; because this Chick-fil-A debate has nothing to do with the honorable topic of human and civil rights.
It’s about chicken sandwiches.
Clue Ten: See Clues One through Nine.
- Hundreds turn out in Racine to support Chick-fil-A (jsonline.com)
- Chick-fil-A Posts ‘Record-Setting’ Sales On Appreciation Day (kake.com)
- Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day Attracts Hundreds (krextv.com)
- Chick-fil-a; 5 Facts to Help (or Hurt) Your Argument (uloop.com)
- ‘Mor’ support for Chick-fil-A: Residents flock to restaurant (amarillo.com)
- ‘Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day’ draws a crowd in Arnold (stltoday.com)
- Chick-fil-A restaurants become rallying points for supporters (fox13now.com)
- Triangle Chick-fil-A backers say: eat chicken, not words (newsobserver.com)
- Chick-fil-A supporters mob First Coast locations (jacksonville.com)
- Huckabee’s Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day shows Country Still Split on Gay Marriage (channel6newsonline.com)
- Americans flock to support Chick-fil-A (wnd.com)
- Chick-Fil-A Protesters To Hold ‘Kiss-In’ Today (brandtstandard.com)
- Chick-fil-A ‘Kiss In’ demonstrations planned (abclocal.go.com)
- Chick-fil-A: Same-sex kiss-in on Friday (mercurynews.com)
- “Kiss-ins” take place at Chick-fil-A (azfamily.com)
- Chick-fil-A marriage stand attracts support, criticism (stltoday.com)
- Chick-fil-A Confrontation Costs Executive His Job (foxnews.com)
- We hear: Chick-fil-A receipts being mailed to Rahm Emanuel (theblaze.com)
- ‘Kiss Day’ draws smaller response at Chick-Fil-A’s than appreciation day (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- The campaign against Chick-fil-A is an attack on religious liberty. (itmakessenseblog.com)
- Vandals hit Chick-fil-A as ‘kiss in’ protest gets off to a slow start (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Chick-fil-A gay marriage battle goes political in LA – Los Angeles Times (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Activists protest Chick-fil-A with kisses (cbsnews.com)
- Same-Sex Family Invites Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy To Dinner (thinkprogress.org)
- More than gay marriage driving Chick-fil-A flap – San Jose Mercury News (mercurynews.com)