Further Thoughts on Chick Fil A

To be honest, I did not expect anything near the stir my first piece caused about deciding not to eat at Chick Fil A anymore. I’ve written lots of articles about LGBT equality before, but when you bring a favorite business into the mix, people get remarkably passionate.

For the most part, I’ve enjoyed and appreciated the dialogue between those who choose not to eat there any more and those who take issue with such a decision. However, based on some of the comments I’ve seen, I think a little bit of clarity is in order.

Is this a boycott? I’m not calling for some big, formal boycott. I’ve decided not to eat there anymore because of their public stance on “traditional marriage,” and because of their donations to groups that I consider not just to be supporters of opposite-sex-only marriage, but groups (like Family Research Council and Exodus International*) that have in the past or continue to practice so-called reparative therapy to deprogram gay people, with the goal of making them straight.

As for those who feel this is overstating Chick Fil A’s position on LGBT rights, I would note that they were co-sponsors of an event in 2011 with the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which actively fought to strike down California’s Proposition 8, and which also worked aggressively to oppose an anti-discrimination bill in Pennsylvania which sought to include sexual orientation as unlawful grounds for individual discrimination.

Is this simply pro-traditional-marriage and family or actively anti-gay? Everyone has to decide for themselves, but I choose not to support such efforts, and I think others appreciate knowing where their money goes.

What’s wrong with supporting traditional marriage? Every organization and individual certainly is within their rights to stand up for the values they deem are important. But in doing so, you have to expect that some people will disagree with you, and that it may have an impact on your business. I take public positions all the time as a professional writer/blogger. Some of those positions cause readers to walk away from me, or even openly criticize me, or to encourage others not to read what I write. I do what I do knowing that’s a possible consequence.

The biggest personal issue I have with the typical case for traditional marriage is that it offers no alternative avenue to afford equal rights to those who do not align with that group’s definition of “traditional.” It is a position of privilege and power to be in a place where you get to define the rules people must follow to be recognized as equals, and with such power comes an expected calling to account for those decisions.

Boycotts don’t do any good. Some argue that making a public issue of this kind of thing only serves to reinforce the convictions of those who agree with Chick Fil A’s stance on marriage and equal rights, and that their commitment to support the business even more ardently cancels out my decision not to spend money there. Could be. I’m not trying to bring the company down. I’m interested in two things: putting my money where my values are as much as I can, and informing readers so they can make an informed decision too. Do all of my economic decisions ascribe to a morally perfect model? no. But when I know better, I try to do better, and in this case, I don’t agree with the company’s sponsorship and support of events and organizations I deem as actively campaigning against the rights of fellow human beings.

Don’t they have a right to their opinions and values? Yes. But I am also entitled to mine, and one of the most powerful tools I have as a consumer is in my wallet. If I don’t use my money to support the businesses I see as consistent with my own values, I’m missing an opportunity. Also, if I feel one person’s values takes away rights from someone else, I feel compelled to say and do something about it.

Boycotts are self-aggrandizing tools of the left.  I’ve heard this one tossed around quite a bit, as if conservatives never boycott anything. I did some articles and interviews about the recent “Blue Like Jazz” movie, based on the book of the same name. Because of some of the theological positions taken in the film, some folks opted not to see it. In fact, the senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church – which funds and produces many of the most popular Christian-themed movies in the mainstream media today – issued a boycott against the movie. In fact, he went further, stating that anyone who had anything to do with production or promotion of the film would not work on any Sherwood films again. He also leaned on Provient Films, a co-production company of Sherwood’s movies and distributor of the movies, tried to force Provident to keep Blue Like Jazz trailers from running ahead of any of their films. In making the case, the pastor both admitted he had not seen the movie, and he also made a false statement, claiming that the words “I hate Jesus” appeared in the preview, which they did not.

All this is to say that activism cuts both ways. Painting this as an exclusively “liberal” phenomenon is ignorant.

*Exodus International’s president did finally announce a few weeks ago that they would stop the practice of reparative therapy as part of their organizational practice, although they continue to employ people who endorse the practice. 

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1147325292 Milton Brasher-Cunningham

    Right there with you, Christian.

    Ginger’s and my relationship to Chik-fil-A is much like yours and Amy’s and we have gone through the same sadness. The groups, like Exodus, to which they are donating do damage. I don’t have a need to get on a soapbox and tell everyone what to do, but I can choose how I spend my money and how I stand up for and with my GLBT friends who are hurt by these organizations. I hope I would always pick people over a quick sandwich.

    Peace,
    Milton

  • Mary

    I agree with you.  Please proofread, though; I noticed at least three typos as I read the article.  Good argument, though! 

    • http://www.facebook.com/christiandpiatt Christian Piatt

      Fixed :-/ I’m notorious for neglecting to copy edit closely enough.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1077510123 Wes Shank

    Shockingly, I have the solution! :)

    It is my opinion that government should get out of the marriage business all together. Zilch. No more marriage. You want someone making decision at the hospital, write their name down. You want someone to be on your insurance, pay for them. You want someone to live in or share a home with you, move in or hop on the mortgage. You want to have kids together and then split up, go to a judge if needed and get help deciding how to handle it. But there is no good reason for government to be in the business of blessing marriages.

    Then, if you’re a Christian and you want to get married in a church, knock yourself out. If you are whatever else and want to get married on a mountain-top, cruise ship, airplane, whatever, have at it.

    Marriage now is just about money. Money to get married, money to get un-married. Let’s just drop it. Let it go back to being what it should be – private between two people.

    • Danosaur

      I agree with the essence of much of what you say, Wes, but there surely are practical reasons for society to recognize domestic partnerships beforehand, rather than relying on contracts, arbitration, the court, etc to resolve situations related to property, wealth transfer, debts, and such.

      For some time, I’ve wondered whether the solution simply is to stop using the term “marriage” to refer to the legal recognition of domestic partnerships by the local, state, and Federal governments. These partnerships should be called “civil unions” and should be universal across the states, whether the parties involved are heterosexual or homosexual. The term “marriage” should be reserved for religious rites that recognize domestic partnerships.

      Doing this accomplishes two things: 1) It eliminates the discriminatory “separate-but-equal” situation some states currently provide for homosexual partnerships, and 2) it preserves for religious institutions the freedom to bestow their marriage rites only on those couples for whom they believe are entitled to receive it.

      My church will offer marriage rites to both homosexual and heterosexual couples. Other churches will consider that to be heresy. Fine. So long as we all tolerate that diversity of religious belief and so long as we all respect the legal rights entailed under civil unions, I think most of us can be satisfied.

  • http://aredemptionofhope.blogspot.com Ally C

    Just a thought–

    i feel like “traditional marriage” is a misnomer. For the majority of the world, “traditional marriage” is polygamy rather than monogamy, but no one in the US means “polygamy” when they say “traditional marriage”– all they mean is a union of one man and one woman. 

    /shrugs

    • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

      Majority of the world? Really? That’s odd. Most foreign countries I’ve lived in like Japan, Philippines, Korea, Albania, Montenegro, Greece, Kosovo, Croatia, Canada, Mexico, Honduras, and Turkey, just to name a few, practice monogamy… very strictly. Perhaps more so than the US. So, I wonder what do you really mean when you say “majority” of the world practices polygamy?

      • http://aredemptionofhope.blogspot.com Ally C

        From the Wikipedia entry on polygamy (which is an easier source for me to cite than my anthropology textbook, which is currently in a box): 

        “According to the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, of 1,231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous. 453 had occasional polygyny, 588 had more frequent polygyny, and 4 had polyandry.”

        Polygyny is one husband with multiple wives, polyandry is multiple wives with one husband. So, that’s what i meant when i said the majority of the world practices polygamy. Evolution truly does not favor monogamy. :-)

      • http://aredemptionofhope.blogspot.com Ally C

        Btw, of the countries you mention, most do not sanction polygamy. 

        • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

          I would argue that “sanctioning” and “practicing” are two different things. 

          You forgot to add to your Wikipedia entry: “At the same time, even within societies which allow polygyny, the actual practice of polygyny occurs relatively rarely.”

          • http://aredemptionofhope.blogspot.com Ally C

            i wouldn’t either (see my other post)– my point was, the countries you mention practice monogamy; they are not representative of the majority of the world. 

            i didn’t forget to mention it. My original point stands: “traditional marriage” is a misnomer, we use it to mean current cultural definitions of monogamous marriage, with no thought to historical or crosscultural definitions of marriage.

          • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

            Ally – I agree that monogamy has evolved in marriages over the years from a polygamous tradition. Nevertheless, monogamy is the majority type marriage PRACTICED throughout the world today.

          • http://aredemptionofhope.blogspot.com Ally C

            If you say so. 

            Again, my point stands: what evangelicals call “traditional marriage” is not traditional. 

          • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

            By today’s standards, “traditional marriage” is indeed traditional. Monogamous union between male and female.

          • http://aredemptionofhope.blogspot.com Ally C

            By western civilization’s standards (for the most part), sure- but my point wasn’t just about recent history or any one particular society. Again, throughout history and all cultures, polygamy rather than monogamy has been more common.

  • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

    Christian – You certainly have the right to boycott Chick-fil-a, just as I have the right to  boycott an organization that supports anything I find reprehensible. Which I don’t… but I would. And, you are correct, boycotting isn’t just a liberal thing. I remember the religious right always boycotted certain stores and companies back in the 90s, the same with the American Family Association, and other Christian fundamentalist organizations. Boycotts do work. Just ask Ford and Pepsi who suffered greatly back in the late 90s and early 200os as a result of mass boycotting. But honestly, I think Chick-fil-a caters to a certain demographic of people (i.e. church-going, traditional families with kids). And, most people in this demographic are not pro-LGBT and take a strong stand on traditional marriage. So, I don’t predict any major setback for Chick-fil-a as a result of any boycotting. But, good for you for doing what you feel in your heart is the right thing to do. I boycotted several organizations/companies in my lifetime for their support of abortion, sweat shops, and blatant anti-Christian rhetoric. Don’t know if it actually worked. But, at the very least I took a strong stand for what I believed in. And, ultimately that’s what’s important.

  • Julia

    I wasn’t aware that Chick-fil-A donated to such groups and am glad that it was brought to my attention.  I agree with you, I would rather spend my money elsewhere.  Keep up the good writing.  You give me hope in mankind :)

  • JA

    I’ve been contemplating this the past few days and I think it’s not so much the boycott that bothers me. I think it’s the fact that people (right or left) often feel the need to let the whole world know what they are boycotting and therefore clogging social media time lines with righteous announcements. I could guarantee that anyone making such announcements ownes or consumes something thats actually worthy of boycotting but because it doesn’t effect them or someone they know then why bother boycotting it right? If your gonna go through the exhausting effort of finding the political, social and spritual views of every merchant you do buisness with then do it. Dont be selective about it.

    • isaacplautus

       I would say Chic Fil A has deliberately put themselves out there in being such vocal opponents of gay rights.  But these shouting matches do get incredibly wearying.  A liberal friend of mine on facebook was trying to organize a gay couple kiss in at Chic Fil A.  I think things like that will only increase antagonistic feeling among conservatives and contribute to their perception that liberals are elitist and mocking them.  (note I said “their perception”)

    • Brian Fullford

      So if we can’t be absolutely exhaustive we should take no stance at all? Beyond the fact that such a position was addressed above it is an incredibly dormant stance to take and leads to taking not action at all.

  • GreatTVdude

    Thank you! Chick-fil-a is more than allowed to support whoever that want, as are we all. Just like some Christians choose not to shop at Old Navy or Home Depot over their support of gay marriage, you choose to not support Chick-fil-a over their anti-support. That’s very fair.

    I’m not gay, but I support anything that gives people freedom and oppose anything that takes freedom away. So I support gay marriage, but also support people’s right to oppose it. I’m still eating at Chick-fil-a, but because I like their food, but I can also understand why people such as yourself choose not to.

  • http://joeyspiegel.wordpress.com/ JoeyS

    A slideshow at the end of this article shows 25 businesses that have been boycotted by conservatives over this issue: 
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/24/mike-huckabee-chick-fil-a-appreciation-day_n_1696648.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003#slide=1154550

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    A trio of drag queens wants to sponsor chick-fil-a. The video is cute, and I think mocks the organization better than just a boycott.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO-msplukrw

  • Cliffs_World

    Chickfila hasn’t donated a dime to any anti gay groups, but the billionaire owner of Chickfila has a charitable organization called Winshape that makes various donations. Chicklifa as a company has a scholarship fund. Chickfila has corporate stores and franchise owners. You may only be hurting a individual store owner who does not share the same opinion as Mr. Cathy.
    http://www.suntimes.com/business/14021464-420/chick-fil-a-tries-to-put-out-political-fire-over-anti-gay-marriage-stand.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.dalton.18 Gary Dalton

    Well put!

  • Nick


     In making the case, the pastor both admitted he had not seen the movie, and he also made a false statement, claiming that the words “I hate Jesus” appeared in the preview, which they did not.”

    It is fascinating to me that pastors lie in the cause of trying to convince others that something or someone else is unbiblical. Especially in this day and age when it is so easy to fact check.


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