Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Big Gay Chicken Sandwich

Since the very first Chick-Fil-A restaurant opened in 1967 in Atlanta, Georgia, founder and owner S. Truett Cathy has sought to distinguish his chain from the fast-food competition. The strategy seems to have paid off as Chick-Fil-A now operates over 1,500 locations in 39 states and tops $3 billion a year in sales. They have accomplished all this while remaining closed on Sunday and celebrating the conservative values of their founder through everything from The Winshape Foundation to the toys included with children’s meals.

Much of this is made possible because Chick-Fil-A has always been a privately-held corporation and while S. Truett Cathy is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurants, control remains with the Cathy family. This has caused ruffled feathers before because prospective employees are often asked about marital status and church activities as part of the screening process. One restaurant owner in Texas claimed that he was fired after declining to pray to Jesus during a 2002 corporate training session. After a lawsuit was filed, Chick-Fil-A settled with the man for an undisclosed amount.

The newest controversy to be sparked by the poultry conglomerate concerns a food donation to a Pennsylvania marriage seminar entitled “The Art of Marriage: Getting to the Heart of God’s Design.” The group sponsoring the seminar has made it abundantly clear that same-sex marriage is not a part of “God’s design” so when a local Chick-Fil-A agreed to donate food to feed attendees, many saw it is a blatant political stance against gay rights. Within hours of the story breaking, gay rights activists were calling for a nationwide boycott and conservative evangelicals were applauding the chain’s “moral bravery.”

The publicity seemed to have caught current president Dan T. Cathy off-guard, who publicly insisted that they were just donating some sandwiches and did not intend to make a political stance. Personally, I think that the entire thing is absurd and everyone should calm down before they continue to embarrass themselves.

The conservatives need to refrain from using a simple catering job as a moral rallying point. Several of the “supportive” comments on Facebook are downright embarrassing. One person announced that they would eat at Chick-Fil-A twice as much because “being gay is unnatural,” another person reminded the food chain that “Jesus was with them.” I can understand that Jesus is watching over missionaries, orphans, and widows but I was unaware that J.C. had a vested interest in the profit margin of a multi-billion dollar poultry conglomerate. In the name of all that is holy, just eat the sandwich if you like the sandwich. Buying more #2 combos will not cause the “scary” gay people to disappear (there have even been reports of them eating chicken along with heterosexuals.)

The gay rights activist should realize that Chick-Fil-A is a privately held corporation beholden to no one but their customers. If a private company wishes to create a foundation that recruits prison inmates to club handicapped dolphins in front of a children’s hospital, they have every right to do so. If their philanthropic ventures offend or degrade you in any way, you are in possession of the most powerful tool in a capitalistic society: your money. If their corporate stances become too polarizing or extreme then their customer base, and by extension their income, will be reduced and they will be faced with altering their position or dissolving. Anyone familiar with Chick-Fil-A’s corporate history should not find their stance on gay marriage shocking.

Perhaps it is irresponsible, but I often eat at establishments because I enjoy the food. I have no idea what Wendys’ corporate stance on euthanasia is, but I know what their stance on a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger is. I may have even inadvertently funded Al-Qaida the last time I had an oil change, but unless I see the Klan hosting a underage prostitution car-wash in the parking lot I tend to purchase from the company with the best product at the best price.  

And while I am at it, if I hear one more person proclaim that Chick-Fil-A being closed on Sunday is a “stance for Jesus,” I will place a flaming bag of waffle fries on their porch. This viewpoint is ridiculous because most evangelicals dine out after church anyway and I do not know a single Chick-Fil-A patron who would refuse to eat there on a Sunday out of principle. If being closed on Sunday was a clear indication of Protestant beliefs my bank would be holding monthly tent revivals.

If anything, the chain being closed on Sunday redirects revenue away from Chick-Fil-A which would have (apparently)been used to fund conservative causes but will instead be absorbed by a chain that may or may not have questionable moral stances. S. Truett Cathy chose not to open on Sunday because in the 60’s it was the slowest business day of the week and he liked the idea of his employees spending time with their families. Can’t we just give him credit for that?

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