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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 27 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 30
Chick-fil-A sandwiches become a political statement
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Chick-fil-A sandwiches become a political statement

Atlanta-based chain draws criticism, support for anti-Gay comments

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Chick-fil-A does not support same-sex marriage. The fast-food chain has made that abundantly clear. Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press recently that the company was 'guilty as charged' for backing 'the biblical definition of a family.' And predictably, Cathy didn't stop there. In a later radio interview he ratcheted up the rhetoric, saying, '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.'

Um, what? Since when did biting into a fried chicken sandwich become a political statement? And why all the God and marriage stuff as a side order with your meal?

Other than the obvious - you know, the whole 'Jesus wouldn't like it if' bullshit and the 'God will be angry if' crap - Chick-fil-A is actually getting some support in the face of scrutiny. Across the Bible Belt, where most of the chain's 1,600 restaurants are situated, Christian conservatives have organized a 'Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day' for next week, in which they have asked believers to buy at least one chicken sandwich (and waffle fries).

To its supporters, the fast-food chain puts out a delicious product and is known for putting faith ahead of profits - by closing on Sundays.

These sorts of spats always draw the crazies from out of the shadows - or churches, depending on how you look at it. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, is behind the 'Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day' madness, saying he supports a business 'whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values.' And would you believe me if I told you that another member of the 'I failed at getting my party's nomination for president' club, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, has also joined the cause, as have other religious leaders.

'As the son of a dairy farmer who milked many a cow, I plan to 'Eat Mor Chikin' and show my support by visiting Chick-fil-A next Wednesday,' the Rev. Billy Graham said in a statement, referring to the slogan in the company's ads, which feature cows urging people to eat poultry.

The Rev. Roger Oldham, a spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Convention, said many Christians want to support businesses owned by fellow believers, and the loyalty intensifies 'when Christians see a fellow Christian being persecuted.'

'They will come out of the woodwork when a theologically based position is being politicized by individuals for their own purposes,' he said.

But not everyone is as forgiving as the God fearing, Bible-thumping Christians for inequality. Chick-fil-A has seen its share of support - and business deals - evaporate in the wake of Chickengate 2012. Even the Muppets are pissed off. Earlier this week the Jim Henson Company said it will stop providing toys for the fast-food chain's kids' meals because of Chick-fil-A's anti-same-sex-marriage stance. On Facebook, the company behind the Muppets said it will donate the money it received from Chick-fil-A to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

'The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors,' reads the statement by CEO Lisa Henson.

In addition, public officials in Boston and Chicago have told the chain it is not welcome there.

A Chicago alderman vowed to block a Chick-fil-A proposed in his district, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported him, saying, 'Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.' Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote in a letter to Cathy, 'There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.'

Chick-fil-A posted more than $4.1 billion in sales last year, most of it below the Mason-Dixon Line. Just 14 of its restaurants are in the six states and the District of Columbia where Gay marriage is legal. Massachusetts has two locations, both more than 10 miles from Boston. Illinois, which does not have same-sex marriage, has around a dozen, though only one is in Chicago.

The truth of the matter is the Cathy family has never been shy about its Southern Baptist faith. Ever since Dan Cathy's father, Truett, opened the first Chick-fil-A in 1967, the restaurants have been closed on Sundays. The company refused to make an exception even during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta - a major financial sacrifice. It also boasts that the Chick-fil-A Bowl is the only college football bowl game that still begins with an invocation.

In a more sinister vein, Chick-fil-A has donated millions of dollars to anti-Gay groups including the Family Research Council and the Marriage and Family Foundation, according to Equality Matters. In 2010 alone, Chick-fil-A gave $2 million to such groups.

The company is well-positioned to come through the criticism relatively unscathed, even if it loses new markets in the North and elsewhere, University of Georgia marketing professor Sundar Bharadwaj told The Wall Street Journal.

He said that is because Chick-fil-A basically reflects the politics of its customers.

At a downtown Atlanta Chick-fil-A on Thursday, customers were divided over the company's stance, reports the Associated Press.

'If you're a Christian, you believe in the Bible. The Bible says homosexuality is wrong. [Cathy's] absolutely right,' Marci Troutman said over her breakfast.

Her business partner, Steve Timpson, said he chose not to eat at Chick-fil-A: 'You've got to be more tolerant if you're going to operate in the wider market in this country.'

Nearby, Dustin Keller offered another view of Cathy: 'It's his opinion. He's entitled to it. I'm just here to eat.'

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