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Chick-fil-A emphasizes religious views, opposing gay marriage

Chicken sandwiches and lemonade are no longer the first things that come to mind when people hear Chick-fil-A.

Since Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy spoke of his company’s support for the “traditional family” unit as opposed to gay marriage, the company has taken both criticism and praise from consumers. In Baptist Press, a Southern Baptist news service, Cathy discussed how the company operates on “biblical principles,” which include closing on Sunday and supporting marriage as defined between a man and a woman.

"We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business and we are married to our first wives,” Cathy said to Baptist Press. “We give God thanks for that.”

Consumers have had mixed responses since Cathy’s stance on marriage. On Facebook, users’ comments vary from support for Chick-fil-A’s stance on marriage to criticism about their “bigotry” and “discrimination.”

For example, when user Katelen Selph posted that she loved Chick-fil-A on the company’s Facebook page, user Luis Candia replied that she, therefore, “loves bigotry.”

Other comments on Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page consist of:

  • “Chick-Fil-A, your president is a man to be proud of. He stood up for something that is too often ignored. Good job and God bless,” Katelyn Polis wrote.
  • And, “a true Christian does not judge others. A true Christian does not hate. There are very few TRUE Christians left in this world. So, so sad,” Erika Girouard wrote.

Since Cathy’s statement on marriage was released in late July, the issue does not appear to be dying down. Ian Reifowitz, author of “Obama’s America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity,” wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post questioning the “troubling” policies of Chick-fil-A. After researching Chick-fil-A’s job application process, Reifowitz discovered that employees are required to “play an active role” in their church in order to apply:

“Play an active role in your church. Chick-fil-A's owners are devout Christians and expect all of their operators to share Christian values. Operators do not need to be Christian, but must be willing to close the restaurant on Sundays, espouse Christian values and be willing to participate in group prayers during training and management meetings,” the application states.

In the post, Reifowitz questions whether Chick-fil-A has the moral right to ask employees to participate in prayer.

Not only has Cathy’s stance resulted in continuous inquiry and debate by the media, it has stirred consumers to make various public stances.

On August 1, the fast-food chain experienced a record-setting turnout as supporters of Cathy’s stance flocked to many of Chick-fil-A’s 1,600 locations. However, on August 3, backers of same-sex marriage staged a “kiss in” at Chick-fil-A to protest Cathy’s statement on marriage.

The Duke response

Sophomore Andre Agnabi noted that because Chick-fil-A is a privately owned company that has always promoted Christian values, it is not “out-of-bounds” for Cathy to openly support heterosexual marriage over same-sex marriage.

In fact, business leaders make political statements so often that it has become a cultural normality, Agnabi said. The hostility toward Cathy doesn’t stem from him making an inflammatory political statement, but from him making a statement many Americans do not buy into.

“From my personal experience as a Christian, I would say that a lot of people on the other side are very hostile to the beliefs that people like Dan Cathy might hold because there are impressions of Christians being non-excepting, intolerant [and] my-way-or-the-highway bigots,” he said. “Calling him insensitive and intolerant is not right—I don’t think he hates anybody.”

Agnabi added that Jeffrey Bezos, the president of Amazon, has openly supported the LGBT community since Cathy’s statement on marriage, and that this has received less press coverage and community response because it is a statement generally supported by Americans.

Additionally, just because Cathy holds this opinion on marriage does not mean he is intolerant of the LGBT community, Agnabi said.

“The word tolerant is used incorrectly—[Cathy is] probably one of the most tolerant business people I have heard about because even though he doesn’t support gay marriage, he still invites LGBT people to eat at his restaurants and serves them,” he said. “At certain Chick-fil-A’s, when people were protesting, he had his staff bring them water to make sure they were okay because it was hot outside.”

Junior Jacob Tobia said just because Cathy’s right to speak against the LGBT community is protected by the first amendment does not mean students should continue to support his restaurant chain.

“What is not protected by the constitution is his right to any individual consumer's money,” Tobia said. “Consumers can and should exercise their economic power by boycotting companies whose values they oppose—in a capitalist system, it's one of the most powerful things we can do.”

He added that as a private university, Duke is not violating any principles of the first amendment by getting rid of Chick-fil-A, and would be honoring the LGBT community in doing so.

Tobia added that this controversy shows how the Duke community needs to think critically about the behavior of all companies located on campus. A company’s business model and ethics should determine whether they are located on campus.

“To me, it's clear that we should kick Chick-Fil-A off campus and refuse to support their other locations,” he said. “No waffle fries are delicious when they come with a side of hate sauce."

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