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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gays, Chick-Fil-A, and “The Golden Rule”

by Saint Mark (bio)

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I went to Chick-Fil-A as part of Chick-Fil-A’s partnership with Care & Share, a local food bank organization. If you brought in some cans of food you received free food from Chick-Fil-A. Not a bad deal.

Being my first time to ever eat at Chick-Fil-A, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of the food and the organization that served it. Not only are all Chick-Fil-As throughout the country closed on Sunday, but they give Berenstain Bears books as prizes in their kids’ meals. As a Christian, I appreciate and strive to support businesses that close their doors on Sundays to allow their workers to keep the Sabbath holy. I know this isn't possible with all "businesses"—I'm thinking of hospitals, fire stations, police stations, etc.—but I appreciate that if it is possible for a business to do it, they do it.

Moreover, my wife grew up on the Berenstain Bear books and loves them like a childhood blanket because of the ethical and moral values the books teach, whether it's about working out a disagreement, treating our minds and bodies as temples, or serving others. Now that we have kids, we've raised them on the same values that the Berenstain Bear books espouse and support with the assistance of the books themselves. The book given away at Chick-Fil-A was even more special to me because it was titled The Golden Rule and taught the importance of treating others as you would have them treat you—Christ's most famous teaching. This book is difficult to find in Barnes & Noble or any other secular book peddler. I walked away that day feeling very positive about the experience I had at Chick-Fil-A and decided to support it as a future frequent customer.

In an expression of my support, I intended to write a positive post on Facebook about my experience. Then, the very next day, I read about the CEO of the Jim Henson Company severing the Muppets affiliation with Chick-Fil-A because of the comment made by the President of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy, regarding marriage and his inferred opposition to same-sex marriage.

Then, all heck broke loose over Dan Cathy’s comment with protests from the LGBT community and its supporters in this way and this way.

Unfortunately, for the gay community, the protests seemed to galvanize quiet Christians creating record sales for Chick-Fil-A in the process.

So, instead of writing a small, positive post on Facebook that would be forgotten as soon as it was written, I decided to write an article for MMM on the issue.

I can understand the visceral reaction by the LGBT community and its supporters: they hear about a comment made by a CEO and they want to assist that CEO in seeing the wrongness of his or her stance. They also understand that talk is cheap but money speaks volumes so they vote with their pocketbook and their networking power. This tactic was employed Marriott and Utah in the Prop 8 aftermath. It was so effective that the CEO of Marriott himself personally responded to the boycott and happily distanced Marriott International the company from Proposition 8.

Now, some may call this tactic punitive or unfair but others would say it is justified and basic economics. For what it's worth, I don't believe this tactic of boycotting businesses that seem to not be in line with your philosophical or socio-political views is unreasonable. In fact, I believe it is probably the only reaction available to a consumer who doesn't own a majority percentage of shares or work as an executive for the company. For the powerless, it is the only power they can wield. I only take issue when the protests turn nasty like here.

Although I believe the tactic of nonviolent boycotting is effective, legal and reasonable under the circumstances, I am not against eating at Chick-Fil-A. In fact, I'm for it.

As I said earlier, Chick-Fil-A as an organization supports my values (i.e. feeding the hungry, keeping the Sabbath holy, upholding the 13th Article of Faith) and makes a tasty chicken. Now, if there was a chicken sandwich that had a racist or bigoted name or if Chick-Fil-A employees refused service to gays, Hispanics, or women, for example, I would be appalled and refuse to support them with my dollars. But, Chick-Fil-A doesn't refuse service to homosexuals. Chick-Fil-A doesn't have an anti-gay named sandwich. Chick-Fil-A only has a president who shared his personal view about marriage. And on a economics note, how would gay businesses feel if mayors in Arizona or Wyoming decided to not allow gay-owned businesses? The LGBT community would be up in arms. So, why is it acceptable for Boston and Chicago political leaders to stand in the way of Chick-Fil-A franchises? Maybe we should all have more of the viewpoint of Matt Perez, a gay teenager who said this.

I guess if the president of Chick-Fil-A had said he liked the New York Yankees, as a Boston Red Sox fan, I may be inclined to protest and avoid frequenting his establishment but my lack of support would have little impact. As a politician, I definitely would not be involved in determining whether the business should open its doors in my city because nothing illegal had occurred and I would not want to discriminate against someone just because I disagreed with their socio-political views. Further, if I rallied thousands of other Red Sox fans, it would seem that Yankees fans would descend upon Chick-Fil-A and give it record sales and millions of dollars worth of media attention.

Instead of attacking Chick-Fil-A, it may be more advantageous to support one of its competitors. It seems to be a correct maxim that attention flows to where energy goes.

With that said, I think I’ll go and read The Golden Rule Berenstain Bear book to my kids. It seems that more attention on this lesson is needed now more than ever.

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