Thursday, August 2, 2012


In America, almost anything can become a symbol of social division. Exhibit A? Chick-fil-A. How many times have you walked through a mall in America – anywhere in America – and there was Chick-fil-A? The food is mediocre, cholesterol-laden, fried deeply and geared toward a culture that forgot the importance of eating from the earth. Still, a report issued this week by PrivCo, a New York- based research firm that specializes in private companies’ financial data, reveals the company is currently worth $4.5 billion. Further, the report tells us that the company has the biggest sales per unit in the fast food industry in America. So…the company is bigger than Macdonald’s, Wendy’s KFC, Sonic, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box and all the other companies whose focus is fat and salt. Who knew?

If you have been in a coma recently (because that is the only way you do not know this), here’s what happened. In June, COO and President of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, said this in a radio interview: "As it relates to society in general, 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.' I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."

Then, last month Cathy (left) was interviewed again and when challenged on his opposition to marriage equality, he said this: "Well, guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family - the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business . . . We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

And then all hell broke loose. Yesterday, I was in Metairie, LA, which for those of you not from New Orleans, is an area outside of New Orleans with a population of about 150,000. According to the 2010 census, the population is approximately 75 percent white. Driving up Veterans Boulevard, which is the main thoroughfare, suddenly the traffic was stopped, bumper-to-bumper. What I failed to remember is that just a few blocks ahead on the right was the local Chick-fil-A. Thousands of people were flooding the company’s restaurants yesterday to stand (or eat, if you will) in solidarity with Dan Cathy’s “biblical definition of the family unit.”

First, I’d like to say to all of the good Christian chicken-lovers who showed up yesterday at Chick-fil-A’s nationwide – wouldn’t you have demonstrated a greater sense of Christian values by donating the money you spent on fried chicken to organizations that work to alleviate hunger internationally? Just saying. Instead, you chose to make a socio-political statement by waiting for up to an hour to pass through a drive-through window for fried chicken on white bread with waffle fries. While doing so, your car was running, so that collectively all of you contributed mightily to Metairie’s carbon footprint. Amen, y’all.

Meanwhile, big city mayors (Chicago, Boston) have come out with public statements rejecting Chick-fil-A and stating the company is not welcome in their cities. At the time I am writing this there is reportedly
a nationwide plan to stage a "National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A" on Friday. Participants are encouraged to kiss each other, photograph it and post the pictures on the Web. Universities from North Carolina to NYU to Kansas to Notre Dame are reportedly considering dropping Chick-Fil-A from their on-campus food facilities.

Listen, I do not in any way agree with Dan Cathy’s views. I do not. However, I fully support his Constitutional right to express himself. Was it wise for him to mix commerce and religion? I think not.
But it is his choice whether he wants to give public props to Christ on the radio. While my brain does not compute the connection between a deep-fat-fried slab of chicken on a heavily buttered bun and the definition of marriage, Dan Cathy is an American with the right to freely spout off about his pride in being married to his “first wife.” If we try to silence Dan Cathy or put a significant dent in his corporate structure simply because we don’t like his views, what next? What about your views? What if a lot of people do not agree with your views? Should you be silenced? Should you be censored? Should your professional or corporate life be hampered because of your ideology? I think not. Dan Cathy clearly does not comprehend the seismic shift that is occurring in the makeup of the American family. He just doesn’t get it. Still, he has a right to make money. And you have a right not to spend yours on his greasy offerings.

 With that said, if evidence presents itself that Chick-fil-A is practicing discrimination in hiring or promotions, unfair labor practices or actionable bias against certain customers, then we have big trouble and Cathy needs to fess up and suffer the consequences. In fact, U.S. District Court records reveal that Chick-fil-A has been sued 12 times since 1988 for employment discrimination, according to a highly enlightening piece in Forbes Magazine about the company’s corporate culture.

The Chick-fil-A uproar currently underway across the nation is really not about two people with the same genitalia getting married. It is about freedom.
And every time we try to stifle someone’s Constitutional freedom in this country, we run the risk of losing our own freedoms. And in this country, when you lose even a degree of your freedoms, you rarely get them back. Does anybody remember what it was like when we actually had privacy? I challenge you to tell me how we’re going to ever get our privacy back. The same can be said for our freedom of speech. Let Dan Cathy talk. Let him pontificate and shout his exclusionary dogma from the rooftops of his chicken restaurants. And then shout back if you wish and spend all your fried chicken dollars at KFC or Popeye’s, (mmmm…Popeyes, num num num) but let him talk. The free and open public discourse is the root of everything – even when it is built on a chicken sandwich.

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