Is Chick-fil-A the Best of American Capitalism?

The Best of America

This column originally appeared on Palo Alto Patch.

It’s been a relaxing week now that I am finally on vacation.  Between sunbathing on the beach, reading in the hammock, and kayaking along the bay, I’ve been busy doing nothing. Most mornings I wake up not sure what the day will bring. But you can be darn sure I know what I’ll be doing on Wednesday, August 1st: donating to organizations that support gay rights.

I vowed to have a media free holiday and so I turned off the TV, suspended my newspaper subscription, ignored my Twitter feed, turned away from Facebook, and only checked email once a day. As a result, I had no idea Chick-fil-A’s President and COO, Dan Cathy, stirred up a hornet’s nest by declaring his company supports “the traditional family.”

He went on to say, “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.”

Huh? 

Isn’t it his job to sell chicken sandwiches not religion? In some ways, this privately held company is a sterling example of American Capitalism. Chick-fil-A was founded in 1946 by S. Truett Cathy and is now primarily run by his son and a myriad of relatives. Through innovation and hard work, it has expanded nationally and operates in 39 states across this great nation. Its annual revenue is reported to be over $3 billion. Not bad.

Except it seems the company isn’t just selling good ole’ southern food. Every time you buy one of its supposedly healthful char-broiled chicken sandwiches, drink a glass of its freshly squeezed lemonade, or gobble down a handful of those tasty looking waffle fries, you’re subsidizing a religious stance that believes “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.’”

And I thought I was just hungry.

You have to love the mayors of my two homes: Boston and San Francisco. Both have taken a stand against the company that supports the “biblical definition of marriage” and are refusing to allow Chick-fil-A to open stores in their cities. Boston’s Mayor Menino wrote in an open letter to Dan Cathy,

“You called supporters of gay marriage “prideful.” Here in Boston, to borrow your own words, we are “guilty as charged.” We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people. We are proud of our state and our city have led the way for the country on equal marriage rights…There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Train and no place for your company alongside it.”

Now, former Arkansas governor and one-time presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee, has called for a Chick-fil-A appreciation day. “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”

As of this writing, 348,255 people have liked the event and say they are going. Well, if this isn’t about the best corporate public relations coup ever. Business schools will be discussing this in the their marketing classes for decades.

And Also the Best of America

Meanwhile, Ph.D student, Brian Real, is fighting back. He created a Facebook page calling Americans to “Donate (the cost of) a Chicken Dinner for Marriage Equality Day.” That’s about $10. His page lists more than two dozen LGBTQ advocacy organizations, includingThe Trevor ProjectGLAADHuman Rights Campaign and the Matthew Shepard Foundation, to which people can donate on August 1st.

So far only 4,715 say they are going to vote with their dollars, but you can count me in. And, if I am hungry that day, I’ll go on over to Chipotle.

Their CEO, Steve Ells, is gay and in a long-term relationship, but you wouldn’t know it. Like Tim Cook of Apple, he’s not waving his rainbow flag; he’s just trying to build a great company. Now isn’t that truly the best of American Capitalism?

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3 responses to “Is Chick-fil-A the Best of American Capitalism?

  1. Pingback: Civil Discourse Requires Work; On Finding (Un)Common Ground | Lisen's "Blog" – An Angle of PrismWork

  2. Luke,
    One of the truly great things about this country is our ability to have divergent opinions and still be unified. And, we can choose to support businesses and organizations that are aligned with our beliefs and choose to not patron those that don’t. I choose to not patron Chick-fil-A but support their right to have a different point of view.
    Safe travels and thanks for reading.
    Lisen

  3. Lisen, My family and I are travelling through the US at the moment and one thing we definately notice is that many Americans are far more than simply about making money – they also have strong beliefs one way or another. This, I think, makes for a colourful country. Now, I do want to say though that I agree with your point of view.

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