Forget the Muppets; Chick-fil-A May Be Partnering with the Berenstain Bears

***Update***: This was posted on their Facebook page:

Our publisher, HarperCollins, is marketing several of their Berenstain Bears titles through a kids’ meal promotion at Chick-fil-A scheduled for August. This program was in development for over a year. We were unaware of any controversy involving Chick-fil-A until July 25. The Berenstain family does not at this time have control over whether this program proceeds or not. We hope those concerned about this issue will direct their comments toward HarperCollins and Chick-fil-A.
The Berenstain Family

The backstory about how the Muppets dumped Chick-fil-A for its owner’s anti-gay-rights views is here.

Now, it appears the Christian restaurant chain may be doing something it did years ago: Partnering with the Berenstain Bears, the beloved characters from the best-selling children’s book series.

I can’t verify this yet but there’s a petition campaign at CREDO Action to convince the owners of the Berenstain Bears characters to follow the Muppet’s and drop Chick-fil-A:

Now, Chick-fil-A is planning to partner with the Berenstain Bears for its next promotion, using the beloved bear family as a prize package for its kids’ meals. Losing business partners is a huge blow to the chicken-centric fast-food giant, and the strongest lesson possible to the company that its anti-gay stance is out of touch with modern values. To ensure the Berenstain’s — and Chick-fil-A — get the message, SumOfUs.org is partnering with CREDO to bring as much pressure to bear as we can against corporate homophobia.

As I write this, the Berenstain Bears’ Facebook wall is being littered with complaints about the affiliation — but all sources point back to the CREDO petition — which has no citations at all. So take this story with a grain of salt.

If the story is true, though, the Berenstains probably won’t back down. Because they’ve been publishing religious books for a while now. (These are not Photoshopped):







So, if the story checks out, you have another reason not to eat at Chick-fil-A. (Or, I guess, not to buy Berenstain Bears’ books…?)


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Guest

    That makes me so sad. I grew up with the Berenstain Bear books.

  • Robert Stoll

    No surprise, really. They always have been more of a folksy sort of thing. For every book about taking political action over political speech, there have been books that take absolutist standards; even the way they present morals there is a definite right and wrong as if there was only one way to go in life. 

  • cipher

    Hemant, to be fair, they don’t appear to be specifically “Christian”, and certainly not evangelical. Stan Berenstain was Jewish; Jan was an Episcopalian.

    I am interested to see what happens with Chik-fil-A.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Thanks. I revised that wording to be more clear.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    Oh this sucks. I used to love the Berenstain Bears when I was a kid back in the early 70′s. None of their books were religious back then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cons.annie Cons Annie

    With titles like Here’s the church, Here’s the steeple & Go to Sunday School..
    LOL! Good luck with that petition! 

  • Tainda

    Their paws always scared me

    • Vivian

      Haha! I felt the same way when I was a kid…  I guess as an adult too. 

  • Terri

    Their son, Mike,  is a born-again and has taken over the franchise.  More info here:  
    http://www.christianpost.com/news/berenstain-bears-author-uses-his-talents-for-god-in-faith-inspired-series-51146/

    • Gus Snarp

      That article made me very sad. So the Berenstains kept a secular house, but now that their son has found Jesus he’s decided to make their legacy all about religion that they didn’t really care all the much about. And his 87 year old mother is still helping out. Maybe she found Jesus too, or maybe she always would have like to be more religious, but her secular husband didn’t want to, or maybe she’s just being nice for her son. Or other darker things. Any way I look at it, it’s sad. But at least I don’t have to feel bad about the original Berenstain books.

      • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

        Jan died earlier this year.

      • bummed bear

         yeah, me too. I hate this even more than when comic strips get taken over by opportunistic family. at least when BC was co-opted it became less religious instead of more.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          Didn’t that happen with The Family Circus, too? That was one of my childhood favorites, but I feel like it’s gotten preachier in recent years. 

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    That ‘Sunday School’ one was my son’s first introduction to the Flood story, and it shocked him.  While at Sunday School, Brother and Sister learn the story, and it’s not a ‘niced’ up version.

    There’s also a Berenstain Bears Bible.  I must say, I found the NIrV translation of Leviticus 18:22 kind of funny

    “Do not have sex with a man as you would have sex with a woman. I hate that.”

  • 1000 Needles

    …they’ve been publishing religious books for a while now. 

    Another sequel ruining something from my childhood.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      I loved their books as a child and this news makes me sad.

      • bummed bear

         yeah, me too. I didn’t know they’d found gods since i was a kid.

  • Hellbound Alleee

    I thought the Berenstain Bears were Jewish. I absolutely remember this from my childhood. It seems a tragedy that the “owners” of these characters made them Convert.”

    • Cheepak Dopra

      Why? Jews are much worse than Christians.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Stan Berenstain was a secular Jew. The earliest books never mentioned religion, though the bears did celebrate Christmas with Santa Bear. There was no Christian content until their evangelical son took over the company and partnered with Zondervan to produce religious books.

  • Miss_Beara

    Well isn’t that disappointing. Spooky Old Tree and The B Book were two of my favorites as a little kid.

    There are some called ” The Berenstain Bears Let the Bible Be Your Guide,” “The Berenstain Bears Follow God’s Word,” and “The Berenstain Bears Here’s the Church Here’s the Steeple.”

    I wish these were fake.  

    • Tainda

      My dad always told me it was

      “Here’s the church
      Here’s the steeple
      Open the door
      Where’s all the people?

      Around the corner to Joe’s Pool Hall
      Open the door
      There’s all the people!”

      He isn’t much of a poet hahaha

      • Miss_Beara

        That’s much better! :) 

  • Kodie

    When Jan Berenstain died earlier this year, I looked up the wiki article. These people had been writing weirdo books aside from the bears for a long time. Some titles include:

    Be Good or I’ll Belt Ya!
    And Beat Him When He Sneezes
    Office Lover Boy
    How to Teach Your Children about God without Actually Scaring Them out of Their Wits

    I’m not sure I’ll miss them too much and not really surprised if the children of that family grew up kind of not-right.

    • Gus Snarp

      I’d have to see more than the titles on those before I’d make a judgment. 

      • Kodie

        Feel free to go look them up.

        • Rwlawoffice

           I did.  none of those are identified.  I assume some may have added them as a joke.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Berenstain_Bears_books

          • Kodie

            Well, you’re not going to find them if you don’t know where to look, because they are real titles of real books written by one or both Berenstains. It’s so much easier to accuse me of being mistaken, so you must be right. I can’t fault you for being helpless, you’re not on the internet right now, are you? 

            • http://www.facebook.com/people/Devin-Fields/100000252646019 Devin Fields

               I don’t know, the evidence Rich posted would suggest that you’re wrong. No need to get upset.

              • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                I think Amazon links, which includes ISBNs suggest she’s right- they are real books.  I just don’t think all those early books are in any way alarming. The covers look pretty period sexist, but nothing like “How to Raise up a Child” kind of crap.

                Without actually buying some (although now I’m getting curious) I can’t say for sure, but honestly, I’m happy reading most Berenstain books to my son.  I think they promote lots of decent values. I just didn’t like the one about killing almost all life on the planet because it was all wicked.

                • Kodie

                  I think I just said they were weirdo, perhaps I implied something else, but nevertheless, the kind of humor old people who read the Reader’s Digest or Erma Bombeck like, often featured at the grocery checkout and read in the toilet. That’s what it looks like to me, but I didn’t see inside any of them either. I don’t have kids so I don’t have to worry that any of mine will miss out on the Bears. I’ve read some of those, and they’re ‘eh’, of course not for myself, but I don’t have some sentimental attachment to the characters either. Similar to the bible, in my mind – while some of it’s good or wise, it’s not exactly original. Someone changed it, as often happens with long-established series when the original author dies (like Sunday comics, for example), so it’s not surprising that the quality suffered. I guess this means if you pick and choose good titles from lousy, the same guy gets the money and gives it to Dan Cathy and that’s no good.

                  So you got value lessons in the form of the Berenstain Bears, but you can find other books and demonstrations of your values; I think the more we know, the more important lesson is integrity and how money works. How many books and licensed characters teach that?

                  (And yeah, sorry about just listing the weird titles I saw with no link; I’d seen them before and it was just a comment. Yesterday I posted too many posts with links in them and I’m so tired of captcha and investing too much time in turning in theses; it was just a comment not really meant to brand the Berenstains themselves as vile monsters, just quirky and perhaps surprising aside from their otherwise wholesome Bears series that everyone is familiar with).

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                   the more important lesson is integrity and how money works. How many books and licensed characters teach that?

                  Well, the Bears :-)

                  But no, I’m with you on they’re not great.  I don’t have a problem with them, I think they’re teaching good values, but they’re maybe too teachy/preachy.  I’d put them above some of the superhero/Disney dreck my son wants to read, but behind Seuss or Mo Willems or Sendak  or any of dozens of other much better authors and illustrators.

                • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

                  As a kid, I loved the little rhyming lesson at the beginning of each story.  Probably a tad preachy, but I always appreciated that the Berenstain Bears dealt with real issues, like being scared of the dark or having to go to the dentist.

            • Rwlawoffice

               I stand corrected.  It looks like some of those were written by them in the late 50′s and early 60′s.  I agree with Rich, just from the covers it looks like some of these are satire.  If you have evidence that they actually endorsed beating a child for sneezing, I would consider it. 

              • Freak

                “And Beat Him When He Sneezes” is a quote from Lewis Carroll.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Not much info out there, although there are used copies available.
          http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B000UQT59Q/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books is one cover.  I think the “Beat Him” is sarcastic.  I don’t recall ever seeing any capital punishment in any Berenstain books.

          There are a couple of reviews about “Teach your Children”

          I quite agree with Darkgenius’ comments on this book. It does not actually give any of the answers that the title implies. Rather, it seems like a kind of satire of nonbelieving parents, churches and Sundayschools. I read it and felt more like it was poking fun at the whole question rather than offering helpful advice. Additionally, the presence of 2 or 3 uses of d–n, 1 use of a–, a reference to Junior’s parents being “in the sack”, as well as other less-than-reverant elements all make me wonder if this book is really meant as a mockery, rather than a helpful guide. It certainly wasn’t written from the perspective of a Christian parent.

          http://www.amazon.com/How-Teach-Your-Children-About/product-reviews/0345294572 

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            I should point out that the “Sunday School” book that I took issue with portrayed the Bear family as returning to church after a long absence.  Like they fell away from it, and deciding one Sunday to go to church gave the family meaning and purpose.

            In any sense that it was autobiographical, I’d say it was saying that the family was apatheist for a long time, then then embraced Christianity.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Trying to teach the Golden Rule to Christians is a waste of time. They prefer to make everyone do as they do.

    Also, are they really claiming that the Golden Rule is Christian? I guess they’re going to teaching lying straight off the bat. 

    • Miko

      More to the point, is Hemant really claiming that the Golden Rule is anti-gay?

  • MegaZeusThor

    Bears have no soul!

    (To be fair, there’s no evidence we do either.) 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aaron-Scoggin/100000044792747 Aaron Scoggin

    I loved reading the Berenstain Bears when I was growing up. I never encountered a religious book of theirs until recently. Needless to say, I was pretty surprised.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I’ve always thought of the Bears as more red state fare.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    There was a thread about the Berenstain Bears back in 2008:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2008/11/26/the-berenstain-bears-are-christian

    I feel sad that the series has been hijacked by the Berenstains’ evangelical son. However, I refuse to let it tarnish the earlier books. They are all still in print and are sweet, completely secular stories. Just avoid the newer stuff published by Zondervan.

  • Drew84

    I live in the UK so I never heard of the 
    Berenstain Bears but I find it completely stupid that children’s books will have religious animals considering that the one of the ultimate fiction books aka the Bible says “God created man in his own image”. How do the religious animal characters in these books feel about that? I mean worshipping a mythical magic man who’s clear favourite creation is man and all the other creations are beneath man. As the saying goes “religion equals insanity”.

    • Miss_Beara

      The unfortunate thing is that they were never like that in the 70s, 80s and 90s. A beloved children book series bastardized. Thankfully they have the old books (all?) still in print. 

  • rocketdave

    Just last week my siblings gave me permission to use my best judgment in deciding which of our old children’s books to keep and which to get rid of.  The Berenstain Bears may have now made that process a little simpler, though I guess I can’t totally blame the original creators for the actions of their son.

  • cipher

    Partnering with Zondervan, a Berenstain Bible – Hemant, looks like I was wrong.  They are specifically Christian.

    And it looks like Chick-fil-A will have a new marketing partner.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      The original secular Berenstain Bears books are still published by Random House, while all the Christian ones are put out by Zondervan. If wonder if someone purchases the originals, does it support the franchise as a whole? Maybe I’ll just buy used copies from now on.

  • Diane53mo

    I back Chick-fil-A’s right to stand for their religious belief’s 100%.  For those screaming and wanting to punish them is hypocritical and is filled with hate.  Shame on you,…nothing in what they stated was thru hatred…everyone has known for years of their religious beliefs.  Just because you don’t like their beliefs is un-important.  This is a free country and religion is part of that.  Don’t be part of the bigots that persecute Christians..even though it is writtren in the Bible this would happen.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Diane, actions have consequences. Chick-fil-A has every right to donate millions of dollars to anti-gay groups. No one here is disputing their right to do that. But when they donate that money, they should expect criticism. They should expect backlash. This is indeed a free country, and people who dislike bigotry are free to encourage others to boycott Chick-fil-A. Sponsors are also free to withdraw their support. The Jim Henson Company stands for equality, so they don’t want the muppets associated with homophobia. It’s that simple. Plenty of people don’t think that bigotry is acceptable, and they’re standing up for what they believe in. 

      • Guest

         “Actions have consequences” — you mean, the Jim Henson company was inexorably following some law of nature?

        What Kermit taught us this week is that when you disagree with someone, pack up your toys and go home in a huff.  Shame, that.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          You know, you may have a point.  Maybe instead Jim Henson company should have produced a new series of toys.  Like maybe  Mr. and Mr. Bunsen and Beaker, or Mr. and Mr. Statler and Woldorf.  Can’t think of a good female paring- anyone?

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          Isn’t this something we all learn in kindergarten? It’s pretty basic cause and effect. If you do something to hurt other people, they may not want to spend time with you anymore.

          Why on earth would the Jim Henson Company want their characters to be associated with a business that gives money to groups like Exodus International and Family Research Council? Since they support equality, it’s nonsensical to expect them to lend their support to such bigotry. They have every right to “pack up their toys” and save them for businesses that are more in line with their values.

          • Rwlawoffice

            So if a company that believes in same sex marriage doesn’t want to do business with someone who doesn’t, then they have the right t not do business with them. Why doesn’t the same hold true the opposite way? For example if a photographer doesn’t want to perform at a same sex marriage, shouldn’t that be her right? Or if chick fil a only wanted to buy chickens from farmers who thought the same way they did on traditional marriage ? Would you support their right to do so? I believe that just like Jim Henson, they do have that right .

            • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

              If a company is providing a service to the public, then it can’t discriminate against certain people and not others. A photographer who advertises to the general public can’t (legally) refuse to photograph interracial or interfaith weddings. Just like a restaurant can’t deny black people service, or a bed-and-breakfast can’t deny rooms to Jews.

              However, we’re not talking about denying services. The Jim Henson Company doesn’t owe anything to Chick-fil-A. They partnered with them, but are free to disassociate for them for moral (or other) reasons. Same for any company. I wouldn’t expect Chick-fil-A to offer their stuffed toy cows at Planned Parenthood events, nor should they be forced to do so. There’s nothing illegal or unethical about private companies partnering with companies that share similar values. 

              And, yes, if Chick-fil-A only wants to buy chicken from anti-gay farmers, that’s their right. I can’t think of any reason why they should be forced to associate with a company they disagree with. No other company is owed Chick-fil-A’s business, just like the Jim Henson Company does not owe Chick-fil-A their business.

              • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                Some other hypotheticals I thought of-

                If CFA wants to buy ice cream from Ben and Jerrys, can B&J refuse?  I don’t think they should.  But if CFA wants to slap B&J’s name all over it?  I don’t think B&J can refuse to sell their product to someone, but they can refuse to sell their image.

                I think in general the consumer should have more rights than the producer.  That is, I can buy from anyone I want, but I shouldn’t be able to pick who I’m going to sell to.

                • Ken Porter

                   I’m a photog and I wouldn’t shoot a gay wedding. I have every right to pick and choose who I do business with!

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                   Providing  a service is different from providing a product, so legally speaking you’re right.  Forcing you to provide a service would forced labor. I don’t recall the legalese, but even if you have a signed contract, you could break it.  However if you had signed a contract, you may be required to compensate for loss.

                  Which is just further evidence as to why this whole “Churches will be forced to marry gays” line is a bunch of BS.

    • cipher

      Don’t be part of the bigots that persecute Christians..even though it is writtren in the Bible this would happen.

      Let me make sure I have this right. On the one hand, we shouldn’t be Christian-persecuting bigots. On the other, if we don’t persecute Christians, your Bible’s “prophecy” won’t come true, which means it it isn’t infallible, which means it isn’t the word of God.

      Which outcome do you want, Diane?

    • Kodie

      the bigots that persecute Christians..even though it is writtren in the Bible this would happen.

      “What I’m telling you is too crazy to be true, so whenever someone points that out to you, believe it even harder!” Doesn’t take a prophet or a god to predict that would happen.

      – Your skin will fall off… that just means it’s working! —

  • dangeroustalk

    I actually wrote about the Berenstain Bears conversion to Christianity awhile back. Here is that blog post: http://www.dangeroustalk.net/?p=2424

  • Troglodyke

    The Cathy family has every right to donate to whatever causes they wish, and consumers who know where their money goes have every right to refuse to give them money.

    This should be a slam-dunk, end-of-story, freedom of choice type of thing. But it isn’t.

    I stand proudly for gay marriage, and equality, and for not giving my money to places that will support organizations trying to push their religious beliefs on what is, according to law, a civil matter.

    But I am more than a little disconcerted with how the pro-gay-marriage folks who are chirping the loudest are handling this. The bigger a stink they raise, the worse it looks for us. We’ve been saying, correctly, for years that there is no “gay agenda.” There isn’t.

    But being petty about this, and now, trying to bring undue pressure on the Berenstain Bears to not partner with CFA, is not helping our cause. It’s making it look like we are now bullying. I feel like the slow gains we have made towards marriage equality are starting to slip with the handling of this this issue, and it concerns me.

    What organizations Dan Cathy donates to is not a civil rights matter! No one has to eat or work at CFA. The stores do not discriminate; they will sell you food if you have money. By making a mountain out of what should have been a no-brainer molehill (“a Christian-run company frowns on gay marriage? Who’d a-thunk it?”), the pro-equality side looks pretty suspect.

    It’s one thing to spread the news that Cathy is anti-equality so that consumers can make informed choices. It’s another to try to bully them into changing their views, or bully companies they might partner with. Those tactics won’t win hearts and minds, particularly when the “victim” is a company like CFA, with a well-honed business model and a saint-like founder.

    For the record, neither side has handled this well. The fake FB postings from CFA or some CFA supporters and the coincidental pulling of Muppets merchandise (and calling it dangerous) are both tacky and ridiculous.

    I am so sick and tired of us nonbelievers (and gays) being told ad nauseum that we are pointedly trying to “rid the country of Judeo-Xtian values.” It’s untrue and stupid, among other things. But this is giving that assertion more weight, I’m afraid.
    Let Cathy shout his views from the rooftops. He has every right. Let the chips (or waffle fries) fall where they may. I’ll never give them a dime, but many will.Let’s fight battles that make us look a little less douchey.

  • coreypaul

    http://www.berenstainbears.com/parents/ they have posted info about the issue.

  • coreypaul

    ps: 7 hrs ago on fb they posted same message about issue:

    “Our publisher, HarperCollins, is marketing several of their Berenstain Bears titles through a kids’ meal promotion at Chick-fil-A scheduled for August. This program was in development for over a year. We were unaware of any controversy involving Chick-fil-A until July 25. The Berenstain family does not at this time have control over whether this program proceeds or not. We hope those concerned about this issue will direct their comments toward HarperCollins and Chick-fil-A.” The Berenstain Family

  • http://www.mygodlesslife.com/ Tris Stock @mygodlesslife

    I think they should team up with Barney the Friendly Dinosaur.

    Not gay at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=634985215 Steven Daoud

    Boycott and petition those who support this bigoted book and it’s publisher, such as PBS Kids. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. 

    • http://www.mygodlesslife.com/ Tris Stock @mygodlesslife

      Or, you cannot sell your crapola chicken and eat it too?


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