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Handy Fact Guide: The Chick-Fil-A Controversy

Just thought I would use this modest platform to offer up a handy guide to the Chick-Fil-A controversy that’s come up in recent weeks following an interview with the company’s President and COO Dan Cathy. After being so frustrated by seeing so many people on facebook post cute little pictures with captions that oversimplify and misrepresent the issue, I thought I would refrain from opining but instead offer up a summary of facts surrounding this issue, for those who’d like to be more informed about it.

First, if you read nothing else, read the original interview by the Baptist Press. It is paramount that we all have the right to freely express our opinions, and to be able to engage in a civil discourse around contentious issues, but knowing original source material is essential to being able to participate in an informed way in a meaningful dialogue, am I right?  What follows is what I hope you’ll find to be a concise dispelling of misperceptions and highlighting of facts from original sources surrounding this issue. My inspiration is my own experience of educating myself as to who I am giving my money to when I eat at Chick-Fil-A, and as a result being able to make informed decisions and have informed discussions about this issue. Whatever your own decisions and opinions are, I imagine you too find it important to feel they are based on an examination of pertinent contributing information.

So what’s really the big deal? In the interest of keeping it to the point and based on accurate information, I’ve bolded the essentials below, and put original source quotes in blue (I also provide links to them at the end of the article), if that’s all you want to read.

Onto the misperceptions and the facts:

One of the cute captioned pictures making the rounds on facebook says: “Let’s ask the Christian president of a chain restaurant that isn’t open on Sunday his view on gay marriage, and act surprised and outraged when we don’t like his answer.”

Fact: While NOT the aspect to focus on in this whole thing, Dan Cathy was asked about the company’s stance, not his own. (And he was asked by the Baptist Press, a website whose slogan is “News with a Christian perspective.” So, to be fair, he was not asked by anyone looking to incite controversy, and they were absolutely looking for a Christian perspective.) It is the job of the President of a company to not confuse his own opinion with the stance of a multi-million dollar enterprise. As Chick-Fil-A is not a publicly traded company, he does not have responsibility to protect the interests of public investors. He does have responsibility to accurately represent the company’s mission and values. Here are some quotes from the interview:

 “Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. ‘Well, guilty as charged,’ said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.”

 “’We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.’”

In making these comments, Dan Cathy displays a lack of awareness of the fact that the company’s operations are carried out by thousands of people with diverse lifestyles and backgrounds, many of whom are excluded and alienated by his description of what it means to be a “family-led business.” This, even as in the same interview Mr. Cathy attempts to make the point that a company is its people; a company can espouse values because the people who comprise it do: “His goal in the workplace is ‘to take biblical truth and put skin on it.’” But whose skin? His? Or the collective? As one example, even Cathy concedes that not all franchise owners are married (“our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single.”), showing the most basic awareness that those who invest in Chick-Fil-A, and who are carrying out its mission, which is “to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A” (italics mine), represent a diverse group.

In short, Dan Cathy should have clearly differentiated between his own stance and that of the company, as his job was to represent the company’s stance accurately. As clarified after the fact, here is the company’s actual stance:

“Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business.
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. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

Which brings us to the next, and most important point…

Most Important Fact: The major issue is NOT about Chick-Fil-A supporting or not supporting gay marriage. It’s about Chick-Fil-A supporting organizations that promote discrimination and, in some cases, outright hate. Chick-Fil-A itself has stated it does not wish to have a voice in the gay marriage political and legal discussions (“our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”). As noted in the block quote above, from their website, Chick-Fil-A itself acknowledges this is a values issue, and that they will give money to organizations for which they approve of their values. Equality Matters provides an informative list of organizations they support, and what those organizations do with their resources; you can click here to read it. Note, for example, that one organization, The Family Research Council, has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Speaking of Chick-Fil-A’s charitable giving, another popular post on facebook points out that Chick-Fil-A has done so many charitable things for many people, but then concludes that, because of this, it doesn’t matter whether or not they support gay marriage. This is simply a red herring. Good actions do not grant you credit that gives you a pass to engage in shameful actions, nor do they cancel them out. Secondly, and again most importantly, refer back to Most Important Fact above.

Finally, regarding the backlash and boycott…

Fact: The vast majority of people, cities, and organizations who are severing ties with Chick-Fil-A are not demanding that Chick-Fil-A change their values or their decisions. The boycotters are not demanding anything. They are simply deciding to not give their own money or any other kind of support to Chick-Fil-A because they don’t want to personally contribute to the funding of discriminatory and hate-promoting foundations that Chick-Fil-A supports. They are exercising their voice just as Chick-Fil-A exercises its voice. If Chick-Fil-A wants their business, these people and organizations are encouraging Chick-Fil-A to do something about it, and are willing to work with Chick-Fil-A on making changes. If Chick-Fil-A doesn’t care about the loss of business, that’s fine, too.

That’s all.

As a post script, here is a little bit of opinion, just to put in context that I am not someone who hates Chick-Fil-A and was out to get them: Prior to all of this, and those who know me can attest to this, I have been a lifelong Chick-Fil-A fanatic. I LOVE their sandwiches and fries. I LOVE their customer service. Their employees are consistently friendly, polite, all-around pleasant, and always get the order exactly right. I have been a huge fan and have spent lots of money and many lunches there. That’s why I find it all the more upsetting that a company that could be so great in so many ways could also take the money I have spent at their business and use it to support discrimination and hate. I still ate at Chick-Fil-A when I knew the company was anti-gay marriage; even though I disagreed with their stance, that wasn’t enough for me personally to stop giving them business. I stopped eating there when I educated myself and found out that they actively support discrimination. There is a difference, and it is very important.

-Lil Old Moi-
Source material:

Baptist Press interview that started it all

Chick-Fil-A’s website press room

Equality Matters’ list of  charitable organizations to which Chick-Fil-A donates money

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4 responses »

  1. Thank you for this, with how far this debate has come, most people don’t even know anymore what they’re fighting about, and it’s increasingly difficult to find non-opinionated “facts”(even my own feelings have clouded my judgements on this) to learn what the real story is here.

    Reply
  2. Debbie Dietzel

    I really do appreciate your research into the background of this controversy by citing source documents. I have not gathered a lot of facts on my own, but I have felt quite unsettled over the rumors and behavior of folks on both sides of the issue.

    I will pose a question by way of analogy: let’s say that your article and blog writing really took off and you find yourself the owner of a multi-million dollar company. For sake of argument we will also imagine that your personal faith is Buddism. You choose to legally donate through the charitable arm of your business to a Buddist orphanage in Tibet. Does this mean that you or your business are anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, and anti-Judism? Or does it simply mean that you choose to donate in a much bigger way because of your successful business to causes you care deeply about but would be unable (or inappropriate) to champion as the president of your company?

    I postulate that Mr. Cathy donates to causes that he cares deeply about that he as the president of Chic-Fil-A might find inappropriate to involve himself with directly. I think you rightly analyzed that Mr. Cathy deviated from the stated policy of his company with his response in the interview. However, I do NOT buy that Mr. Cathy nor the charities he supports are engaged in “hate activities.” Christian doctrine teaches against sexuality outside of marriage, but it also condemns lack of faith, holding grudges, and not loving your neighbor. To use another analogy: if someone is truly zealous about protecting people who ingest too much starch and sugar, does that make them a “junk food lifestyle” hater? No, but it could get pretty irritating if the health food zealot shoves it down their throats. Alternately, some (admittedly, not all) Christians can be very caring in presenting a message to folks about the love and power of God that can deliver people from what the Bible terms “slavery to sin.” But, like the healthy evangelist, it makes all the difference in how the message is delivered. And, we all understand that there are many who do not deem that their actions or lifestyle are harmful to themselves or others.

    Anyway, I believe all Americans should be very careful to not jump on the slippery slope bandwagon of calling those who teach against certain activities they deem harmful as “haters.” Following World War I when Germany slipped into deep depression, the Jews were identified as the “haters” who hoarded all of the money that no one else had…and we all know how that scenario turned out.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your thoughtful reply and thoughts, Debbie! Personally, I think rather than sit ins and protests, dialogues are the best thing to come out of this. Always glad to hear a person’s thoughts and perspective!

      Reply

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