Who would have imagined Americans would face a moral dilemma when it came to figuring out where to grab a fast-food bite? In the land infamous for super-sizing waistlines, now comes an important question for Chick-fil-A consumers:
It’s not, “Would you like Chick-fil-A sauce with your order?” but rather, “Do you realize that a portion of your sales may be directed to our organizations’ donations box, which may be allocated to ‘anti-gay’ organizations?”
It seems as though for the past few weeks (I’m not really sure how long this has been going on since I’m quite far removed from my nearest Chick-fil-A), Americans have been taking their politics from the campaign trail to the drive-thru.
To this I say, why is this new information and what is the cause of the sudden outrage? If you live in the South (or have since been transplanted in the South * cough, cough northern University of Richmond students cough, cough *), then you already know that Chick-fil-A is a Christian-based, for-profit organization. It is closed on Sunday, does not serve alcohol, each branch is family-owned and operated and the service is friendly, polite and unparalleled to any other American fast-food restaurant and in some cases, several sit-down restaurants. This business plan sounds quite familiar to an iconic Richmond family business, the former Ukrop’s grocery stores.
Both businesses intertwined faith and commerce into their practices and were/are very successful. Both establishments treated their customers with the utmost care, dignity, honor and respect and never prejudices a customer no matter the customer’s age, sex, gender, race, creed, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, education, disabilities or special needs, clothing style, preference for chocolate or vanilla, taste in music, carbon footprint, etc.
What for-profit corporations do with their hard-earned money, which we, as consumers, freely, willingly and not against our own volition handed over, is up to them. In our American society of laissez-faire capitalism, I think business and politics, particularly more consumer-based businesses, should not affect each other.
I can understand why, in an election year, the outrage against a Christian-based restaurant, known for contributing funds to anti-gay/pro-“Biblical” family organizations, has exploded through the social media world. But what I cannot understand is how is boycotting the chain going to change anything? People are still going to have their beliefs, whether one thinks those beliefs are wrong or not. With the Cathy family (the clan behind the chicken) as staunchly and conservatively Christian as they come, no boycott will change their Biblical interpretation of the family unit.
I also could understand the outcry if Chick-fil-A was not meeting the requirements for an Equal Opportunity Employer. Then it’s a totally new ballgame. That is a time where, I think, government/politics must intervene in business practices. But Chick-fil-A is not guilty of denying fair work or fair wage to its employees if they do not fit what the Cathy family believes to be the definition of a family unit as defined (by their interpretation) of the Bible. I happen to know of a few former Chick-fil-A employees who consider themselves part of the LGBTQ community.
Choosing not to endorse a company based upon how it contributes its earnings is your American right as a consumer. Yes, Chick-fil-A has and probably will continue to donate to anti-gay rights groups. But did you know that the company also donates a considerable amount of their earnings to fund a large foster care program, schools of higher learning and a children’s camp? Did you know the company also has a scholarship fund, established to help its employees (if they so choose to) move past the fast-food service sector and on to higher-paying jobs?
I am not so sure if boycotting one company will bring about any change. People still buy Nike apparel, particularly Norts (Nike shorts for the sorority girls), when they have been involved in child labor scandals. People still eat chocolate when they know that child labor has been used. In our materialistic world, boycotting rarely yields the desired results.
Do you think many liberal-minded people are boycotting Urban Outfitters, which is owned by a conservative and Rick Santorum donor? Or how about Domino’s pizza, started by a Catholic who has funded anti-abortion causes? Are conservative-minded folks avoiding dipping their Oreos in a nice, cold glass of milk because Kraft/Nabisco/Oreo posted a rainbow-icing-filled Oreo in honor of Gay Pride Month?
I write this as a friend, ally and supporter of the LGBTQ community. I have many dear friends and family whose option to marry the one they love or to have the same rights to their partner is not an option in most states. I do not agree with the conservative Christian view of the definition of marriage. I write this as a relatively socially liberal, fiscally conservative American.
I also write this as someone who has spent the last year living in a part of the world where homosexuality is punishable by death. The plight of gay rights abroad, specifically for those members of the LGBTQ community residing in developing nations, is not a topic for debate. Here, especially in Africa (and yes, I am referring to the continent as a whole intentionally, perhaps with the exception of South Africa), homosexuality is considered one of the greatest sins. In a land where the colonialist missionaries’ interpretations of the Bible have been taught and are sometimes still practiced today, homosexuality is seen as far worse than sins which I believe most Westerners would agree are atrocious: Rape, child abuse, adultery, murder, theft, polygamy.
Does this mean that I’ve refrained from indulging in my poor Chick-fil-A replacement, Chicken Inn, while I’ve been here because chances are the organization does not recognize the LGBTQ community? No. If all Americans living in developing nations were to boycott companies because of the political ideologies, then we would have to either grow/produce all of our own food and non-food items or have them shipped via very unreliable and very expensive couriers/postal systems from establishments where our beliefs are portrayed. Simply put, it isn’t possible.
I may be going out on a banana tree limb here, but I would not be surprised in the least if an investigation uncovered that some African companies have supported known or unknown criminals who evade justice because they are “politicians.” However, as we have seen in one example—Kenya with the post-election violence of 2007/2008—justice eventually will prevail.
Perhaps gay rights in Africa are not at the forefront of political agendas because it is either a) a non-issue since the majority do not believe in it; and/or b) there are far more pressing and important needs, such as access to and affordable food, water, housing, education, battling climate change, addressing tribal issues, dealing with refugees inundating a country’s resources, the list goes on. Although this may sound insensitive to the LGBTQ community in Africa, gay rights, for now, is considered a Western issue and I do not see any positive change on the horizon, despite the UN and other Western organizations best attempts to bring forth equality for all humans.
Bringing the conversation back stateside, I would like to reference Jonathan Merritt, a contributor to “The Atlantic” and Josh Ozersky, food writer for “Time.”
Ozersky wrote waaaay back in February of this year about the infant stages of the Chick-fil-A moral conundrum. He lives in New York City and frequents the city’s only Chick-fil-A, which happens to be on the New York University campus. He, too, has felt an ethical dilemma in his decision on whether to indulge in a delicious product or whether to boycott said product based upon one facet of the company’s ideals. But he decided, “Businesses should be judged by their products and practices, not by their politics.”
Merritt’s column, which I saw on “The Atlantic’s” website last Thursday, inspired me to contribute to the conversation, albeit with a bit of global perspective. I think that the issue at hand is not whether or not the delicious fast-food company should support/fund anti-gay organizations but rather why all the fuss when no one is forcing you to be a free consumer of a chain that perhaps you don’t agree with.
I will struggle with the fact that yes, it is known that Chick-fil-A does not approve of gay rights, but as a consumer, that does not make me a follower of their ideology. I just really want a Chick-fil-A sandwich with extra pickles, waffle fries and a sweet tea. If indulging in that is a sin, then the only one I know to call it is gluttony, and for that I say, let them eat chicken sandwiches.