Southern Views

I love a good Chick-fil-A sandwich.

Five years ago I totally swore off fast food chains after some unpleasant food poisoning incidents. Thank you very much Burger King! Here’s a shout out to you Wendy’s!

But the one chain that I could not foreswear was Chick-fil-A. Not that I tried. Something about their operation made me trust them, and I travel a lot, so if I didn’t have at least one fast food joint to eat at, well, I would have some hungry travels.

Of course, traveling on Sunday created extra issues because it is closed that day. The founder, Truett Cathy believed in going to church and giving that freedom to all his employees, choosing faith over profits. It was always something that I admired about the company, regardless of my growling stomach.

I used to be able to stop at a Cracker Barrel and get some real southern cooking. Then a few years ago they fired a cook, not because she was putting too much lard in the beans, not because she wasn’t getting orders out fast enough, not because she didn’t wear her fashionable hairnet but for the simple reason that her partner was also a woman.

The chain made no apologies and said they were within their rights to fire her. Those rights are a whole other story. God bless the land of the free. I stopped eating there the day I read the story and haven’t gone back.

So now it appears that my one last bastion of fast food has been donating to organizations that fight equal rights for people who simply want to marry the ones they love, albeit of their own gender.

Their president, Dan Cathy, has said Chick-fil-A serves and honors all people, and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt – for now. They are a hometown success story, but words are one thing and actions another and in the next few weeks they will have an opportunity to clarify the values they uphold. I have my fingers crossed they will denounce organizations that would deny equal rights to gay people in our country.

This isn’t Chick-fil-A’s first brush with bigotry. They fired a Muslim storeowner in Houston for not praying to Jesus with the other employees. Huh? There was a settlement in the case. No duh.

The restaurant is reported to announce sales of 3.5 billion last year and my humble efforts at exploring this issue don’t amount to a grain of chicken feed in the face of those numbers, but sometimes even a small gesture is worth the effort. I respect a private business’s ability to do as they like, but they should respect my ability to spend my fast food money elsewhere, or, more likely, go hungry.

And what do I think Jesus would do? He would eat chicken sandwiches at a table that included Muslims, gays, illegal immigrants, people with AIDS and every other marginalized person in this country, but I’m not sure he would eat it at Chick-fil-A.

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Billy Howard

Billy Howard

Billy Howard is a commercial and documentary photographer with an emphasis on education and global health.