When word got out that a Chick-fil-A operator provided lunch to an anti-gay marriage retreat sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute earlier this month, protests, boycotts and red flags snowballed from gay rights activists throughout the country.
The issue first trickled into the Hoosier State, where false reports erupted that Indiana University South Bend removed the chain’s vendor status. The campus did, however, suspend weekly Wednesday sales at two main dining areas on campus pending a review of the issue.
This is not the first time Chick-fil-A has been on the receiving end of such protests. In 2009, gay rights groups expressed dismay for the chain’s support of Focus on the Family, a Christian-based organization that endorses gay-to-straight conversion therapy. Chick-fil-A also was sued in 2002 by a Muslim employee who claimed he was fired for refusing to participate in an employee prayer. The suit was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Chick-fil-A has always outwardly embraced its Christian roots, even closing on Sundays. The company has been nicknamed by some secular groups as “Jesus chicken,” according to a story in the New York Times.
The story also claims the company requires potential employees to discuss their marital status and civic and church involvement while being vetted, a charge Dan Cathy, president and COO, vehemently denies.
The latest issue has forced Cathy to respond to news coverage, some of which he has called misleading:
“In recent weeks, we have been accused of being anti-gay. We have no agenda against anyone,” he said. “At the heart and soul of our company, we are a family business that serves and values all people regardless of their beliefs or opinions. We seek to treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect, and believe in the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself.
“We also believe in the need for civility in dialogue with others who may have different beliefs. While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees.
“Chick-fil-A has a long history of trying to encourage and strengthen marriages and families, both within our Chick-fil-A system and with our customers. My father and our founder/CEO, Truett Cathy, is a role model for the Cathy family and all those who have joined Chick-fil-A. His personal and business values have always reflected a belief in the importance of marriage and family. We have seen these principles honored powerfully in Dad's marriage of more than 63 years to our mother Jeannette and those of his family, including my wife Rhonda and me in our 37 years of marriage.
“At Chick-fil-A, we have a heart for helping marriages because we know marriage can be difficult at times. Through the years, we have supported our Chick-fil-A staff and franchised Operators in their marriage journey, and since the formation of our family foundation, the WinShape Foundation, we have helped others as well. Primarily through WinShape, we have supported summer camps for girls and boys, 14 foster homes, more than $26 million in college scholarships and the development and operation of the WinShape Marriage Retreat Center.
“Chick-fil-A's Corporate Purpose is ‘To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us, and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.’ As a result, we will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family. This decision has been made, and we understand the importance of it. At the same time, we will continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families. To do anything different would be inconsistent with our purpose and belief in Biblical principles.”