To Eat More Chikin or Not – That is the Question

I like chicken

Yes, this post is about the controversy swirling around Chick-Fil-A and the statement made by company president Dan Cathy about gay marriage:

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. We give God thanks for that.

As a supporter of gay marriage, the logical next step would be for me to declare Chick-Fil-A verboten, right? To swear off that yummy breaded sandwich on whole wheat in which the spice in the breading, the tang of the ketchup I add and the sour crunch of the pickle make beautiful music in my mouth, making me forget that I am not, in fact, a judge on Iron Chef feasting on clouds?

When the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) reaffirmed last week their ban on gay members, I immediately decided that Daniel would not join the Boy Scouts when he was old enough because I would not let him participate in a group that proudly and openly discriminated against a group of people. However, when I thought about Chick-Fil-A and the company’s stance, I felt conflicted. And I felt ridiculous about feeling conflicted because we’re talking about a fast food restaurant! Surely it should be easier for me to decide not to give them my business than an influential group that has done so much good for boys like the BSA. I even had a chat with a coworker about the conflict we both shared and joked that if it were Bojangles, McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant, it would be easy to boycott them.

Ridiculous or not, I feel pressure to make the right decision and be able to justify it because I want to set a good example for my son. I want to ensure that decisions I make and actions I take are deliberate and consistent. I also don’t want to be a hypocrite because I really despise them. Is this – gulp – a teachable moment?

This morning I read an article in the Atlantic titled “In Defense of Eating at Chick-Fil-A.” I tweeted it out, and it received more retweets than anything I had ever tweeted before. Flattering. It would be more flattering if it were for something *I* had written but never mind. In the article Merritt questions whether it is right to base our commerce on politics that are not part of the product we are buying or refuse to do business with a company based on its beliefs. In other words, does Chick-Fil-A the company’s belief that marriage is one-man/one-woman impact their ability to make a yummy chicken sandwich and mean that as a supporter of gay marriage, I must no longer eat there?

When I say it like that, it seems a little silly to boycott Chick-Fil-A. If I started looking into the politics of every company that makes a product I buy, shopping would become vastly more difficult and complicated. Take Walmart for example. For every allegation of killing small businesses and discriminating against women that makes me go “ew,” I appreciate that Walmart is using its might for good by requiring its supply chain to meet green standards. I support manufacturing and items Made in the USA, so I should probably stop shopping at Ann Taylor or unfortunately any major store or I could accept that the benefit to me of some items being made overseas is greater affordability and the option to own more than one dress or pair of pants. I know that boycotts can work, and we have the option to vote with our wallets, but at the end of the day, I’m doing a lot of hand-wringing over a chicken sandwich.

Maybe I should look at it as which organization has the potential to do the most harm by its position. Looking at the situation that way, I would conclude it is the BSA. They are overtly excluding homosexuals and have the ability to influence young minds by the nature of who they are. I don’t want my son internalizing that homosexuals are bad or wrong because they cannot join the BSA. On the other hand, while Chick-Fil-A supports conservative charities and is anti-gay marriage, they still serve and presumably employ anyone regardless of sexual orientation. Maybe a chicken sandwich really is just a chicken sandwich in this case.

Edited to add: here are a few other points of view on the issue:

What are your thoughts on BSA and Chick-Fil-A? How do you decide whether to boycott an organization?


  1. Egad, so many fabulous posts I’ve missed! Beginning to catch up: I do think that it’s reasonable not to eat at ChickFilA because of their politics. They don’t need to *have* that kind of politics. Maybe the politics aren’t technically part of the product, but does the owner give part of their earnings to support organizations that are anti-gay marriage? In that case, the politics ARE part of the product for me, because they’re part of the profit. And I’ve heard some less than savory things about their employment practices anyway.

    That said, I don’t put my money where my mouth is often enough. I support a local CSA. I try not to shop at Wal Mart if I can avoid it. But do I do research every time I make a purchase? No, I don’t. Because it takes too much time, which is one commodity I find in precious short supply around here … and that, I think, unfortunately, is what makes my decision for me.

    Great post.

    1. It would be great if we had more time to research and purchase carefully. But we don’t. I’d like to save that effort for when it really matters.

  2. Why, oh why, did you have to post this??? I just ate there today – and it’s my favorite place to take Matthew when we’re out for a quick bite. Now I’m conflicted too. I should have known they’d feel this way – I mean – they’re closed on Sundays because of God. But I think I was just not thinking about it (until I went yesterday and remembered – oh yes – God!) because I knew in my heart of hearts that they’d feel this way.

    But – it is just a chicken sandwich. And they are privately, family-owned. They can believe whatever they want. Just like I can. I mean, if you think about it, would I want them refusing me my spicy chicken sandwich because I support gay marriage? No.

    And they have the best kids’ meal around – grilled chicken nuggets with applesauce and milk. For our paleo-lifestyle kid (by choice, not celiac), I can’t find a better place to take him for a quick lunch. And he loves it. And they bring me free refills. And they always tell me to sit down to get Matthew settled and they’ll bring me my food (in a mall food court). And they are all so dang nice. And they cook your food fresh for you. And they have a fabulous yogurt parfait (but I got the fries today – first time in months and months and they were worth it). And they serve diet Dr. Pepper (a true treat!).

    They bring more good to my life than bad. I’m going to keep going.

    Now – if Hobby Lobby came out and made a statement like that (they are closed on Sundays too, because of God), I may need to rethink my stance. I can always go to Michael’s instead. HA! There is no equivalent for Chick-fill-A.

    Great post indeedy!

    1. LOL. I love the grilled nuggets and Diet Dr. Pepper too! Yeah, the fact that they are privately, family-owned is important. I don’t like their beliefs but aren’t they allowed to have them?

  3. I have never even seen a Chick-Fil-A before. I guess they haven’t made it to my area?

    I really admire people who are disciplined about everything and take a stand. I try, with the organic and the recycling and the gardening. I am sure there are problems with almost every aspect of consumerism. There is the Simple Living movement, which I tried for about 6 months.

    I’m most interested in the “first wife” comment. Does that mean they have other “second wives”? But they’re still with the first?

    1. The first wives comment indicates to many that Dan Cathy was referring more to divorce than gay marriage in his comments to the Biblical Recorder, though his stance on gay marriage can also be easily inferred.

  4. On the BSA – yes, we boycott. Our neighbors across the street are trooper leaders and have asked if the boys will join. We politely told them we will not let the boys participate in a group that openly tells young boys that being gay is wrong. They can learn those skills elsewhere.

    I was also conflicted on CFA so I asked one of my lesbian friends. She said she eats there, because they truly give a very small amount of money to those anti-gay groups. She said she would rather not focus on the negative aspect by boycotting but spend her energy working on being positive. And…. I go there maybe once a month. Usually for Spirit Night when they give money to the boys’ school if we eat there.

    I loved the article you sent out.

    1. Ha! I think I made it sound like I eat there all the time, but it’s probably more like once or twice a month. I love what your friend had to say and thanks for asking her.

  5. I think you’ve seen my thoughts about this on Facebook, but just to be perfectly clear:
    Prior to the recent hullabaloo with the COO and his clear anti-gay-rights message, I was aware that the company’s private foundation engaged in discriminatory practices. And so, for a while, I stopped eating there. And then, I decided (ahem, justified…) that if I were to make a donation to Equality NC equal to the purchase amount, I was *way* offsetting any portion of my Chick-fil-A purchase that might support a discriminatory foundation.

    However, their recent announcement regarding the personal feelings of the company’s executives has changed my mind. This is in large part because dedicating a small percentage of your profits to a charitable entity that happens to refuse to serve GLBT families is one thing, while openly saying that you LOVE taking money from the GLBT community but that they are causing God’s judgement to rain down upon our miserable souls is something totally different. Believe how you want, but to basically say that Americans who support equal rights are causing the downfall of society and ensuring God’s wrathful smiting of us all? That’s idiotic. It comes back to the idea that if you don’t like gay marriage, then simply don’t marry a same-sex partner! We legislate morality in all kinds of (sometimes idiotic) ways, but generally, our laws that can be considered based on Christian morality are also generally based on preservation of humankind. I completely disagree with legislating this sort of Christian morality, and I completely disagree with people deciding to treat others poorly because of their sexual orientation. Mr. Cathy’s statements are just too much.

    And also, like it or not, part of a boycott is making a public stand against a corporation’s ill behavior. I don’t want to be seen by friends or neighbors waiting in the drive-thru line at Chick-fil-A, because I don’t want them to think I agree with their politics. I feel better about myself knowing that my money does not go to support people whose beliefs are so dead counter to my own. Everyone has their pet causes, and mine all happen to be along the lines of protecting the rights of marginalized groups. I care less about where my clothes were made (barring grievous human rights violations– I mean, supporting USA-made stuff is awesome, but it doesn’t happen to be one of my personal hot-button issues) than I do about what my money supports. Sadly, money makes the world go around, and if my (limited) dollars are used by a corporation to do things that make me sick, then how can I in good conscience patronize that corporation?

    1. It’s taken me a few days to read and process your comment. I think overall, I agree with you and I’m leaning towards deciding that I cannot continue to be a paying customer of CFA when they actively work to deny same sex marriages. It’s one thing to state they believe a certain way. It’s another to fund groups that support traditional marriage. It’s something entirely different to fund groups that actively try to prevent same-sex marriage, and think the distinction among those practices has been what I have been struggling with. Just playing devil’s advocate for a second though, Kate 🙂 As far as my hot button issue of supporting American manufacturing, I can’t separate financial support from where the clothes are made. If I want clothes made in the USA, I must support companies that do so and stop supporting companies making clothes overseas. I guess what I’m saying is that one way or the other, it all comes down to how or where you decide to spend your money.

  6. Wow! So. You just scared me for a moment. I hadn’t heard of the scouting/gay thing before, but it seems like it is restricted to the USA, so big sigh of relief for our future boy scout.

    As for the rest… To be honest, I think consistency is a pipe dream. Companies, like people, are rarely all good or all evil. You have to take the (incomplete) info you have and make a judgement on whether to hang out with them, all things considered. I think politics should absolutely factor into that, yummy sandwich or no. If companies sell children as sex slaves on the side then by all means avoid their trendy, affordable clothes. But you’re going to be in a grey area more often than you’d like.

    1. I suspect you are right. I can’t make every consumer decision based on what a business supports, but if I can decide what my deal-breakers are, maybe I can stay consistent.

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