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Poll: Christian-operated businesses have support of American public

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–With Christian-owned Chick-fil-A still the target of criticism from homosexual groups, a new Barna survey shows that Christian-based companies have more to gain than to lose when it comes to operating according to their faith — and even promoting it.

The Barna survey did not mention Chick-fil-A and it also didn’t include the issue of homosexuality. But it did find that 43 percent of Americans say they would be more likely to buy products from a company that “manages its business according to Christian principles,” and only 3 percent were less likely to do so. In fact, 27 percent say they would be “a lot” more likely to support such a business. Fifty-one percent of Americans are indifferent.

But what if a company “embraces and promotes the Christian faith?” In that case, 37 say they are more likely to purchase products from the business, 3 percent less likely and 58 percent have no opinion. Twenty-two percent are “a lot” more likely to buy products from it.

Chick-fil-A and another prominent business, Hobby Lobby, are Christian-owned and are closed on Sundays.

“There appears to be a significant opportunity for enterprises that understand and value faith to express their faith consciousness through their business practices — not simply as a marketing gimmick but as an authentic part of their content, their mix of products and services, their branding, and their corporate culture,” David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, said in an analysis. “… [T]he research shows that the consumer audience is divided between those who favor Christian companies and those who are simply indifferent. Very few Americans appear to be opposed to such faith-related businesses.”

Chick-fil-A was the source of a controversy in January when homosexual and liberal groups learned one of its Pennsylvania restaurants was set to donate food to a marriage enrichment seminar sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute. Although the “Art of Marriage” seminar itself had little if anything to do with politics and “gay marriage” — it was aimed at helping couples “apply what the Bible teaches about marriage” — the fact that the Pennsylvania Family Institute has taken positions opposing “gay marriage” led some in the homosexual community to say they’ll take their business elsewhere. One school, Indiana University at South Bend, went so far as to pull Chick-fil-A sandwiches from its lunch menu, only later to reverse course. The video curriculum wasn’t created by the Pennsylvania Family Institute but by FamilyLife, an Arkansas-based pro-family group.

Chick-fil-A, though, never backed down.

Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A president, 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,” 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 ties to biblical values are no secret. In addition to being closed Sundays, 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. He taught a boys’ Sunday School class for 50-plus years. The restaurant is popular among Christian families.

The survey was conducted Dec. 11-19 among 1,022 adults.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.

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