If you’re not familiar with Chick-fil-A restaurants and the controversy going on now, we’ll give you the short form.
Chick-fil-A was founded by S. Truett Cathy as the Dwarf Grill in Hapeville, Georgia in 1946. The first proper Chick-fil-A opened in Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall in 1967 and has since expanded to 1,614 restaurants across the US, mostly in the South. We’ve eaten at a few and they do a fine chicken sandwich, perhaps one of the best chain chicken sandwiches around. One of their iconic ads is a picture of a cow with a hand-scrawled caption of “Eat mor chickin” to encourage customers to avoid the beef.
Chick-fil-A’s leadership has never hidden its Christian values. For instance, all of them are closed on Sundays. The reason a quick-service restaurant is closed Sunday? “He (founder Truett Cathy) has often shared that his decision was as much practical as spiritual. He believes that all franchised Chick-fil-A Operators and Restaurant employees should have an opportunity to rest, spend some time with family and friends, and worship if they choose to do so.” Fair enough, actually kind of noble, in that a successful restaurateur recognizes that his folks need at least one day off a week.
Where the controversy has arisen is in the corporate donation side of the house. Being a “Christian values” corporation, Chick-fil-A has donated money to various groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council who, it would be accurate to say, are not exactly thrilled with those who are in favour of same-sex marriage, which has caused some outrage in LGBT groups. Some groups say that Chick-fil-A is actively anti-gay based on their donation record. Others, notably the mayors of Boston and Chicago are not willing to grant business licenses to Chick-fil-A based on the political beliefs of the Cathy family and the Chick-fil-A corporation.
Here’s where it gets sticky. The Chick-fil-A corporation is a privately held, very successful company that wears its heart and beliefs on its sleeve. No question. Also, no question they have the right to do so.
Other groups, like Equality Matters, also have their hearts on their sleeves and are advocating for a broad acceptance of all the spectrum of sexuality, including marriage, in an inclusive manner. No question and no question they have the right to do so.
So what is a person to do? If you live in the South and don’t agree with Chick-fil-A’s belief set, then don’t eat at Chick-fil-A, if it is important enough to you. Don’t give them your money.
If you want a good chicken sandwich and don’t give a rat’s ass about the politics of the corporation serving it to you, go to Chick-fil-A and order the Spicy Chicken Sandwich. It’s good.
If you’re concerned about family values and the Chick-fil-A belief set meshes with yours, then order two Spicy Chicken Sandwiches, or a Chick-n-Strips tray for the office. Know that your cheque will go to their bottom line and some of it will dribble out to groups that share your belief set. All good.
What bothers us is the sheer volume of media whining on both sides about the whole subject that conveniently skips over the whole issue of Free Speech. That is that Free Speech has a cost.
The cost of Free Speech is that you will also hear opinions that are contradictory to the ones you hold dear. Some will be forceful, others will be muted, but there are always at least two, usually several dozen sides to any argument. The obligation of Free Speech is to let the others be heard after you have had your chance. Don’t agree? Then agree to not agree and leave content.
And also to remember, that there are no black vans cruising around, looking for LGBT people to scoop off the street forcing them to eat at Chick-fil-A. Just as there are no rainbow coloured vans trolling outside churches playing “Brokeback Mountain” on big screens trying to recruit new members.
For heaven’s sake, it’s just chicken. Express your opinion with your wallet.