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August 2, 2012

Column #1,614

Chick-fil-A: Hated & Beloved

By Mike McManus

            Dan Cathy, President of Chick-fil-A, a chain of 1,608 fast-food restaurants, was asked by the Baptists Press if he supported traditional marriage.

            “Well, guilty as charged,” he replied.  Chick-fil-A is “very much supportive of the family, the Biblical definition of the family.  We are a family-owned business, a family-led business and we are married to our first wives.

            “We don’t claim to be a Christian business.  But as an organization, we can operate on biblical principles.” 

Evidence: The chain is closed on Sundays.

In the interview Cathy added words that have gone viral: “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.”

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who had been negotiating with Chick-fil-A to open its first restaurant in the city, sent Cathy a letter “There’s no place in Boston for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

A Chicago politician said he would block Chick-fil-A” from opening in his ward. “It’s a very diverse ward – economically, racially and diverse in sexual orientation,” Alderman Joe Moreno told ABC News July 25. “We’ve got thriving business and we want more but at the very least don’t discriminate against our LGBTQ folks.”

The Jim Henson Company, which had been making toys for Chick-fil-A, severed its ties and donated its earnings from the chain’s kids meals to a gay support group, GLAAD.

Consequently, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, announced a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” for August 1.

“The goal is simple. Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick fil-A on Wednesday, August 1,” he wrote on Facebook.

Millions responded.  Lines snaked out of most stores. I visited one in Silver Spring, MD and virtually all customers came to show their support. Only one came simply to eat.

“The dictionary says marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Rick MacGregor. “We believe in that.” His wife nodded.

Adrian Gastkin asserted, “The CEO did not bash anybody.  And Chick-fil-A has given back to the community.”

Ashley Diehl, 29, who was there with a girl friend, commented, “We support Chick-fil-A because he believes what the Bible says about marriage.  We also believe in their freedom of speech. He should be able to express his opinion without the threat of a boycott.”

James Weir argued, “I don’t think anyone has the right to shut down a business because they don’t like their political or religious views.”

John Sery, a graying middle-ager, was blunt: “This is my support for this country, for freedom of expression, and because they believe in being closed on Sunday.  I admire that.”

Daniel Bailery expressed appreciation for Chick-fil-A’s “moral and ethical standards, such as being closed on Sundays. They create a family environment which is great for customers.”

One customer was standing in line despite the fact he believes, “We are not anti-gay. You can’t fight two consenting adults from doing what they want to do, or gay marriage.”

Jean Iasac frowned, “I don’t think the owner said anything against gays.  He did not say he would fire them, but he did not agree with their lifestyle.”

Susan Su, a Chinese immigrant said she believed in “One husband, one wife.”

In 2004 I asked Dan Cathy why he closed on Sundays. He replied that his dad, S. Truett Cathy, who is now 91, grew up in a fatherless home which his mother ran as a boarding house.  While his sisters laundered sheets, Truett helped his mother cook.  He did not mind doing so during the week, but he longed for a divine day of rest on Sunday.

“He decided that if he ever opened a restaurant, he would not ask others to do what he was unwilling to do.  Sunday was a special day for my dad. And it has not hurt business.  We demonstrated more sales than competitors who were open seven.”

Sales last year: $4 billion. But on Sundays for more than 50 years, Truett Cathy has taught Sunday School to 13-year-old boys. His WinShape Centre Foundation has given millions in scholarships to “shape winners” among children of Chick-fil-A employees.

Finally, Chick-fil-A also supports organizations to strengthen traditional marriage.

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