For nearly the past three weeks, America has found its people divided yet again. This time, it’s not over the upcoming presidential elections, nor is it because of the state of the constantly down-spiraling economy. No, Americans were bickering about what initially seems to be the most trivial of matters: the purchase of a product from Chick-fil-A.
However, the controversy of this simple action stems from not the product, but where the money being paid by the consumer goes. Since last year, the media has reported about Chick-fil-A’s connection to their WinShape Foundation, a non-profit organization and charitable foundation that for several years has donated considerable money to various organizations that do not endorse the practice of homosexuality and subsequently oppose same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.
Though accusations and suspicions of Chick-fil-A being anti-gay have been going around for some time (the fast food restaurant chain is closed on Sundays, after all – a nearly sure indication that it operates on biblical principles), they came in full force last month when Chick-fil-A president and COO (Chief Operating Officer) Dan Cathy confirmed the WinShape Foundation’s support of the traditional family – the biblical definition of the family being led by husband and wife.
After Cathy’s declaration, Americans suddenly directed their attention to Chick-fil-A, with criticism aplenty bombarding the company and ugliness arising. Mayors of various cities, including Thomas Menino of Boston and Edwin M. Lee of San Francisco, have stated that they would not allow the company to open franchises in their cities. The Jim Henson Company, the company behind the Muppets, cut ties with Chick-fil-A and planned to donate the payment they received from the chain to GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). Thousands vowed to boycott the company. In the midst of all this, Chick-fil-A’s Vice President of Public Relations, Don Perry, died suddenly of a heart attack on July 27.
What’s more, in response to the controversy, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee initiated a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day movement for August 1, with the company experiencing widespread public support and reporting record-breaking sales on that day. In response to that, gay rights activists organized a “Kiss Off” at various franchises on August 3.
While we are supportive of LGBT rights, we also believe in freedom of expression and speech. From what we understand, Cathy was asked about his beliefs, and he answered them as honestly as he could, though business-wise it isn’t exactly the smartest move he could have made. His comments regarding his support of the biblical definition of the family definitely won’t sit well with everyone, but they are his beliefs.
It is well within anyone’s rights to boycott Chick-fil-A, and should they choose to do that, we definitely won’t stand in their way, so long as they protest the company in a peaceful and nonviolent manner (though we find ourselves quite surprised at the lack of attention on the WinShape Foundation in comparison). We condemn any efforts by protestors to harm any Chick-fil-A employees or to vandalize any of the company’s franchises. The same applies for proponents of Chick-fil-A as well. That being said, let the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Days and Kiss Offs continue. Both are great ways to get Americans motivated into expressing their beliefs – if anything, this could be a potential warm-up for the presidential elections later this year.
However, to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening more franchises seems like a violation of the First Amendment and almost discriminatory towards those who don’t agree with same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. In a sense, this controversy is almost reminiscent of Park51, also referred to as the “Ground Zero mosque” – though admittedly, the Park51 controversy is much more touchy than Chick-fil-A. In both cases, a city strongly considered preventing the construction of a building by a group, even though the group in question had a constitutional right to do so. Discrimination in response to discrimination is still wrong. What’s more, the opening of Chick-fil-A franchises creates jobs – something that is in short supply in America. To prevent that is to close opportunities for those who need them. We all have a choice in this matter: we can either continue buying chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A or go somewhere else.
If anything, the Chick-fil-A controversy has shed light upon the importance of knowing what political campaigns and policies companies and corporations are making contributions to, and how that affects the society as a whole. As consumers of the products that these companies and corporations make, we have a right to know where their money goes.