NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A decision by a local Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A restaurant to donate food to a pro-biblical marriage seminar has sparked controversy in the homosexual community and caused a university to pull the franchise’s food, but it also has led to an outpouring of support from Chick-fil-A’s customers as the company has refused to back down.
At issue is the donation of food to a marriage enrichment seminar sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute. Although the “Art of Marriage” seminar itself has little if anything to do with politics and “gay marriage” — ads say the video-guided seminar will “help couples apply what the Bible teaches about marriage” — the fact that the Pennsylvania Family Institute has taken positions opposing “gay marriage” has led some in the homosexual community to say they’ll take their business elsewhere. The video curriculum wasn’t created by the Pennsylvania Family Institute but by FamilyLife, an Arkansas-based pro-family group.
Chick-fil-A’s ties to biblical values are no secret. The restaurants are closed on Sundays, and Chick-fil-A’s own website says its corporate purpose is, in part, “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.” Chick-fil-A’s founder, Truett Cathy, is a lifelong Southern Baptist and longtime member of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Jonesboro. The restaurant is popular among Christian families.
So far, no major homosexual group has urged a boycott, although a petition at the liberal website Change.org — urging the local franchise not to support the event — has gained 25,000 signatures. One school, Indiana University at South Bend, chose to pull Chick-fil-A sandwiches from its lunch menu on Wednesdays, the only day of the week they were offered, before announcing Feb. 1 that Chick-fil-A food would once again be sold.
Chick-fil-A, though, hasn’t backed down. Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A president and Truett’s son, released a Jan. 29 statement saying that “while my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees.” The statement also said the company will not “champion any political agendas on marriage and family” but “will continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families” — the goal of the Pennsylvania event. Cathy’s statement added, “To do anything different would be inconsistent with our purpose and belief in Biblical principles.” In a video, Cathy said local restaurants assist many events and that helping with such an event “is not an endorsement.”
“Marriage has long been a focus of Chick-Fil-A, starting with my own mom and dad who are celebrating their 63rd year of marriage,” Dan Cathy said in the video. “In this case, the operator simply agreed to provide sandwiches and brownies for the events, as many Chick-Fil-A franchisees have done over the years for community events, businesses and civic groups…. Let me be clear: Chick-Fil-A serves all people and values all people.”
Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page has grown to more than 3.7 million fans in recent weeks, and its postings about the controversy have resulted in more than 6,000 comments — the large majority of them positive. “Support you 100%! Thank you for driving a stake in the ground!” read one. Another one read, “I am proud that Chick-fil-A is bold enough to make decisions based on their Christian belief and not on public intimidation.” Many supporters of Chick-fil-A, including those on Facebook, argued that if Chick-fil-A had supported a homosexual-themed event, there would have been little attention from the secular media. The New York Times and Time magazine have written stories about it.
“If Home Depot gets to support gay rights activists, I see no reason why another company shouldn’t get to support the opposite,” one comment read.
Others, though, disagreed.
“You cannot say you are ‘serving ALL of our customers with honor, dignity and respect’ when you give support to organizations that promote discrimination against gay citizens,” read one Facebook comment critical of Chick-fil-A.
But Larry Jacobs, managing director of the World Congress of Families, applauded Chick-fil-A. World Congress is an international pro-family group.
“Every year, corporate America pours hundreds of millions of dollars into organizations seeking to advance anti-child and anti-biblical messages such as same-sex marriage, coercive sexual orientation laws and forced transgender ‘special rights’ in the workplace, and it’s treated as a ‘progressive’ business practice,” Jacobs said in a statement. “But let one restaurant chain support the strengthening of the institution of marriage and the natural family, and it becomes end-of-the-world news in The New York Times.”
Jacobs said he wished “other corporations did half as much for the natural family” as does Chick-fil-A. Truett Cathy has donated millions to foster care, marriage enrichment and camp retreats.
Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly lamented that standing for biblical marriage has once again caused a controversy.
“As we witnessed with Apple’s refusal to reinstate the Manhattan Declaration app, there is an ominous trend developing for those who support traditional biblical principles,” Daly wrote in a column on the Focus on the Family website. “What have we come to when a company is booted from a campus for being perceived as supporting traditional marriage, something the majority of Americans still strongly support?”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Following is Dan Cathy’s complete statement from Jan. 29:
Recently, there have been some misleading stories about Chick-fil-A in the media and on the Internet. As a result, I feel strongly about the need to clarify some things. In recent weeks, we have been accused of being anti-gay. We have no agenda against anyone. 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.
Some recent coverage has incorrectly reported that we require potential franchisees to discuss their church involvement. In addition, we do not require this in our franchisee selection process nor do we require a pledge to follow Christian values for the college scholarships we provide.
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.
In summary, we are a dedicated family business committed to three core areas:
* A 65-year history of operating the business according to Biblical principles.
* A 65-year history of providing genuine hospitality for all people.
* A 65-year history of serving families and communities without a political agenda.
Our commitment to these areas has never been more important in light of recent events. Speaking of commitment, I want to thank our restaurant Operators and their more than 60,000 team members for their commitment to customer service.
We appreciate, value and have enjoyed serving all of our customers for many years. We also appreciate this opportunity to clarify any confusion about our beliefs, and we thank everyone for supporting our restaurants and your love for the Chick-fil-A experiences. It has and will continue to be our pleasure to serve you.
Dan T. Cathy