Campaign against Chick-fil-A doesn't fly

Commentary: There is no evidence that the company has discriminated against gays.

By Jonathan Berr Jul 26, 2012 3:46PM

Chick-fil-A's views on gay marriage are neither new nor surprising, and the rush to vilify the chicken restaurant chain has got one serious flaw: There is no evidence that the company has ever mistreated lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender employees or customers.

That's the view of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LBGT civil-rights organization, and the NOH8 Campaign, which is organizing a boycott of the Atlanta company because its charitable arm "contributes to organizations directly working to defeat marriage equality and even groups attempting to convert gay people to heterosexual lifestyles." The chain, however, may not be the first choice for LBGT members to dine or work.
"What I can tell you is that, by all accounts, Chick-fil-A is not a work environment that would be welcoming to LGBT people; or respect their need to provide for their families," HRC spokesman Dan Rafter told MSN in an email.
Chick-fil-A has earned the ire of the liberal blogosphere after President Dan Cathy was quoted in a newspaper affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention that he was "guilty as charged" for supporting "the biblical definition of the family." Though Cathy didn't elaborate what he meant, the Family Research Council, another opponent of gay rights, bluntly points out on its website that "The Bible defines 'family' in a narrow sense as the union of one man and one woman in matrimony which is normally blessed with one or several natural or adopted children."
The critics who are surprised by Cathy's comments haven't been paying attention to the company his father founded more than 40 years ago. The company openly speaks of bringing "glory to God" and famously shuts its more than 1,600 locations on Sundays because the company believes it helps attract employees who want to be part of an organization with a "values-based vision."  Chick-fil-A hands out children's books with biblical themes and features stories of heterosexual couples who met at the chain on its website, including one woman who said "thanks Mr. Cathy for following God because who knows, without Chick-fil-A, how would I have met my husband?"
Though Cathy's views on gays contradict the views of many Americans, they are not unique. About 50% of Americans are against same-sex marriage, according to Gallup. Cathy has every right to make them in a free society, just as Kraft, Walt Disney and countless other companies have the right to express views favoring the LBGT community. A company statement indicated that the company does not discriminate and there is no reason to suggest that it does. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's vow to keep Chick-fil-A out of the city because of its anti-gay views is ludicrous. Other critics, including TV actor Ed Helms and the Jim Henson Co. are painting the Chick-fil-A with too broad a brush.
Take its charitable work. On its website, NOH8 notes that Chick-fil-A gave $1.7 million to anti-gay groups in 2009 through its WinShape Foundation.  The fight against gay marriage is clearly not a huge priority givem WinShape has more than $60 million in assets, according to WinShape's latest 990 form filed with the IRS. Besides, Forbes estimates that Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy's fortune at $1.3 billion.  If the Cathy family really wanted to wage a huge public fight against gay marriage, it could easily afford it. As Jonathan Merritt recently wrote in The Atlantic, the chain does quote a bit of good including giving free meals to police officers in Aurora, Colo., site of the recent mass murder at a movie theater. "It funds a large foster care program, several schools of a higher learning, and a children's camp. It has provided thousands of scholarships for Chick-fil-A employees to attend college and grow past the service sector where they got their workplace start," he writes.

Judging businesses on their politics is a tricky business.
For instance, should liberals not watch "The Simpsons" because the Fox TV network is part of the same corporate parent, News Corp., that owns the hyper-conservative Fox News Channel? Maybe conservatives shouldn't use Google since the search engine giant's top managers favor Democrats. By that logic, they ought to ignore the views of Obama supporter Warren Buffett. When gassing up your car is it better to go with global warming critics Exxon Mobil or Citgo, which answers to Venezuelan strongman and sworn enemy of the U.S. Hugo Chavez?  Looking for furniture? Forget Ikea, whose founder Ingvar Kamprad was "active recruiter" for a pro-Nazi group in Sweden.
If consumers subject businesses to political litmus tests, the question arises of where it starts and where it stops.  If consumers care that Chick-fil-A doesn't support gay rights, should they ask about the views of their accountants or dry cleaners? Most consumers have neither the time nor the energy to subject the businesses they patronize to ideological litmus tests.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter@jdberr.
Jul 27, 2012 6:41PM
I'm thankful for this article.  This whole thing bothers me.  In our society, aparently the only people or companies it's 'policically correct' to discriminate against are the Christian ones.   Chick fil and Truitt Cathy deserve the same rights as the GLBT supporters.  Chick fil a strives to provide a superior product and great customer service, in which they've succeeded.  They have NEVER discriminated against GLBTs (ie, refusing to serve, making malicious statements, etc); Mr. Cathy believes the bible's guidelines for a marriage and he upholds his values.  This has been misconstrued by the media to make the general public think otherwise.  HORSE HOCKEY!  Long live Chick fil a!! 
Jul 27, 2012 5:39PM

I'm proud to work for a company that has only strived to give the best service to every customer no matter what their sexual-orientation may be. The chick-fil-a restaurant I work for has operated for 7 years in a very liberal area and none of our loyal customers have ever complained about our business practices.

We've hired plenty of homosexuals who have felt comfortable with letting us in to their personal lives (I know, because I am heavily involved in our employees as the HR Director) and have never experienced any kind of discrimination from co-workers. Perhaps HTC spokesman, Dan Rafter should conduct a little more research before assuming that not supporting gay-marriage can easily be deduced as a hostile work environment for all existing homosexuals. Talk about being close-minded. We wouldn't boast about giving top-rated service and then turn around and harass a select group of people.

Jul 30, 2012 2:54PM
What is worse is how politicians are threatening Chick-fil-A. A politician does not have the right to stop a restaurant because they disagree with the owners' political view. And if you support those idiot politicians, be prepared when someone on the other side of the isle is elected and stops a company from opening. Can you imagine what the Liberals would be doing right now if a politician come out and said they wouldn't allow any pro-gay restaurants to open in "their" cities??? Yet somehow they justify the reverse discrimination. It is called an opinion and Freedom of Speech. Get over it. I don't like everything I hear but such is life in a FREE COUNTRY.

Aug 1, 2012 12:36PM
Seems to me that liberals in general tend to be all in favor of freedom of choice and speech as long as the choice/speech agrees with them, but as soon as someone voices a different opinion, they want to shut them up and put them out of business.

Freedom isn't a part-time thing.

Aug 1, 2012 9:53PM
I like how gays hate to be judged yet judge those with different beliefs. Who cares if chick fil' a doesnt agree with same sex marriage. They can believe in whatever they want. Not everyone is for gay marriage and not everyone is against gay marriage. Thats just the way it is. Gays rage when people try and shove their conservative beliefs down their throats yet they do the exact same thing by telling people they're wrong and have no place here. Well gays. Last time I checked... this was the United States of America. Meaning... we dont have to support gay marriage if we dont want to. We can have moral values and be conservatives. Deal with it. Kthnxbi! <3
Jul 26, 2012 5:43PM
I luv Chick fil a!!!    Hello Freedom of speech!!!  Everyone who reads theBible has the right to comment on what they read!!   I think I feel like Chicken tonight!  
Jul 27, 2012 2:50PM
What is happening to "FREEDOM".    Is it only for gays?

I love me some Chik Fil A. Even more now.

When will people stop classification and just see us all as Americans in this country? LGBT? NAACP? La Raza?

Why can't we just stop divisiveness, and be one people?

Remember the melting pot our coutry once was?

People came to America to be an American. They never came here and wanted America to be Ireland, or Italy, or France. People came here to be American.

Jul 30, 2012 3:09PM
Honestly I think EVERYONE is missing the bigger question. Why is the government involved in marriage to begin with? Everyday the government gets more involved with our day-to-day lives. It is an ever evolving process that I guess has been slow enough for most to miss. The government can now force us to buy health insurance. Heck you have politicians out there right now trying to control how much soda you drink and that same guy now wants to make new moms jump through hoops to get baby formula in hospitals. I'm not saying there aren't benefits to everyone having health insurance and no drinking a lot of soda and moms breastfeeding and there might be moral benefits to being against gay marriage if you so believe but the perceived benefits do not out weigh the cost of the government restricting free people. We need a complete reset. This was not what our founding fathers had in mind. There is no reason the government should be controlling every aspect of our lives. It is about time we tell the government to back off and get out of our business. As long as I am not hurting your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the government shouldn't be controlling me.
Aug 1, 2012 6:09AM

What I don't understand is why businesses/companies are even venturing into this debate. Just take care of your  business. 

Jul 30, 2012 8:01PM
We are all entitled to our beliefs. However, I don't think that necessarily has anything to do with either shopping or avoiding a business . I was once going to very self-righteously boycott some place or other, and a person much wiser than I told me that to boycott it did not hurt the owner/executives at all, but if business dropped off considerably it meant lower paid employees losing their jobs. And what does that accomplish? So now I just go on about shopping, etc. where I've done it all along.
Jul 27, 2012 4:20PM
To quote the article: "If consumers subject businesses to political litmus tests, the question arises of where it starts and where it stops. If consumers care that Chick-fil-A doesn't support gay rights, should they ask about the views of their accountants or dry cleaners? Most consumers have neither the time nor the energy to subject the businesses they patronize to ideological litmus tests."   REPLY: As consumers, we can choose which businesses we patronize and if their beliefs don't align with our own and we feel strong enough about it, then we can take our business elsewhere.  I don't find it 'tricky' at all.  It all depends on how deeply you feel about a particular political issue.  If it is something you feel strongly about then you always have a choice.
Jul 27, 2012 4:06PM
My issue with Chic-Fil-A isn't that the CEO has different values or opinions than I do.  This is America, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.   I have a problem with their financial contribution to anti gay campaigns/groups.  So since I don't want MY money going to those groups, I will therefore choose not to patronize their restaurants.  That is also my right as an American.
Aug 2, 2012 5:07PM

Let's keep the two topics clear:

1. A customer boycott of Chick-fil-A.

2. A politician withholding permits for Chick-fil-A.


There is nothing wrong with a boycott.  Shop anywhere you want and don't shop anywhere you don't.


Discriminating permits based on the beliefs of a company's owner is evil and illegal.


I mildly disagree with Cathy's stand on non-heterosexual marriage, but I'm outraged by public officials using the government to harass an organization based on a disagreement with the opinion of someone in that corporation.  Because of the latter, I had my first meal at Chick-fil-A last night.



Aug 1, 2012 4:37PM
While I respect the right of same sex couples to live in any envirionment they might choose, they should realize that choosing an alternative lifestyle relinquishes the "right" to what we call a traditional marriage; that between one man and one woman.  They can consider themselves married and should be able to divvy up assets equitable to couples that are traditionally married.  When you opt to live outside mainstream, you should realize that there are things that you are going to relinquish.  Hell, I wish there weren't any rules at all that we should be required to live by, but that isn't the reality of the situation.  We can't pick and choose.  That's my opinion and I don't care that there are people who disagree with me.
Jul 29, 2012 7:14PM

KKK and "Rev" Fred Phelps also enjoy freedom of speach, and people have the right to support them.


Aug 1, 2012 3:54PM

Don't piss off a homo!  You might get glitterbombed!!!


Or worse,  they might tell you that you shoes don't match the rest of your outfit! 

Aug 2, 2012 5:42PM

Anything to divert the attention away from Obama and Mitt, is fair play.


How about some pet food company refusing to sell to gay cats or dogs next week? that should work.

Jul 27, 2012 2:22PM

Every man is free to utter what he beleives is the truth, and every other man is free to knock him down for it. - Samuel Johnson.


This is why most people don't broadcast their politics: there's plenty of other places to get take out chicken, or dry cleaning, or anything, that it usually isn't worth the risk that you'd gain more customers for your opinion than you'd lose.  He'd free to speak his mind.  I'm free to go somewhere that either agrees with me, or at least can get through the transaction neutrally.  And yes, conservatives are free to boycot JC penny, Archie comics, Bioware video games, or whatever else that one million moms (actually around 40,000) group is complaining about, so I'm even minded about this.


Myself: no chick-fill-a near here so I couldn't boycott anyway, but I'd be inclined over that 1.7 million to the cause.  People desperate for jobs, but forget hiring when there's a religious value to defend (impose)

Aug 2, 2012 11:04AM
"If consumers care that Chick-fil-A doesn't support gay rights, should they ask about the views of their accountants or dry cleaners?"  Most accountants, dry cleaners, etc. would be smart enough to keep their personal views about such things to themselves, negating the need for a consumer to have that knowledge.
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