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.

14 Comments
  1. Frank Povah

    I’ve been to their Lexington “restaurant” twice with my dear mother-in-law. Both times the food was luke-warm and what passes for chips (fries to you) were limp,even luker than the rest of the food, and about as appetizing as Macca’s scrambled egg.

    Just coz you’re holy, doesn’t mean you’re tasty.

  2. There’s something smarmy about Chic’s posture. It’s off-putting, like Anita Bryant.

  3. Darn. This is another one of those cases where I can’t boycott what I never patronize. But, it does give me a chance to mention that the ERA is going to be introduced again and continues to languish because of three states’ failure to ratify it. The text is as follows:

    Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
    bullet Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
    bullet Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

    Now, proponents point out that this injunction applies to all people, not just women, and then they ask who could be opposed to that. Obviously, lots of people. Equality negates the very essence of a “naturally” stratified society — i.e. where some people are automatically better than others because nature made them that way.
    Deciding that men associating intimately with men and women associating intimately with women isn’t natural is just the latest effort to find some, any rationale for keeping intact the social strata that some people need to feel more important than anyone else. If that fails, there’s a somewhat less nature-based criterion waiting in the wings — taxpayers. “Taxpayers” seems like an innocuous category until you consider that it not only excludes children, but also the property-less and anyone who has no access to the coin needed to pay a tax (food stamp clients, the housing voucher reliant, medicaid patients, prison laborers and alien migrants). In other words, the objects of human husbandry will be in a class by themselves.

  4. I just don’t find their food that enticing considering what you pay. Who they support or donate money won’t change my buying habits. Being a private entity they should have the right to lend support to whatever cause they like. As the customer you have the right to not buy their product. Job discrimination is a tougher call. There are many shades of gray that tend to lean in the favor of the employer. How Truett chooses to run his business is entirely up to him. Where consumers want to spend their money is their choice. Not a tough decision as far as I’m concerned.

  5. Major disappointment… I don’t like the regular menu (other than fantastic carrot-raisin salad), but do love the bagel w/cream cheese or breakfast burrito. And great coffee, totally free to old people like me! However, this means my bagel an hour ago will be the last, darn it.

    How about checking out Martin’s now? Of course, they’re limited to northwest Georgia but I swear, if they have these same policies, I will have to resort to fixing my own breakfast, and I don’t know if I can handle it. Of course, my kitchen has a really relaxed dress code, so maybe…

    btw, reminder: simply not going there any more does little good. We also need to write them and let them know, which I will do now. May get more attention than letters I send our two senators!

  6. Out of curiosity… how do you know what kinds of donations a company makes? Is there a website or anything like that? I have a running memory of places I boycott, but I sometimes wonder if I continue to boycott Amway, Denny’s, Taco Bell, and Domino’s Pizza, for instance, long after they changed their policies? After all, if one of them changed because they saw the light, it’d be wrong to continue the boycott.

    Although probably the Chick-fil-A cows will begin to fly the same day Amway sees the light…

    1. Billy Howard

      That’s a great point and worth following up. I read about Chick-fil-A in the NYTimes yesterday. Thanks Mary!

  7. Ray Bearfield

    Being a “liberal” means being constantly in turmoil about where to stand on any “moral” issue.

    You mentioned the NYT story. I linked to it on my Facebook page. I found it trite, superficial and banal. The Times might be the nation’s newspaper, but it’s not strong enough to make rural Georgian piety marry Big Apple In Your Face Gay Pride. It tried, and lost.

    That said, I relate to everything you wrote. I, too, want to see the company imagine Jesus sitting down to break bread with his gay followers. I find myself staggering a bit over the Muslim employee incident.

    Still, I admire the company’s insistence on giving employees a day off, whether they attend church or not. I find myself wanting them to come out good guys. Here’s why: The people they put in the drive-through windows really DO act like they’re happy you stopped by. They aren’t smarmy like some junior pastor scoping out the pre-pubs. They’re wholesome, cheerful, enthusiastic people. They don’t tell me I’m going to hell if I don’t accept Jeebus as my Savior, the way the Real Religionists, the ones the Times attempts to portray them as, do.

    Living in Atlanta, I’ve had a chance to see this company’s “charity” in action. It’s forceful, it’s real, and it’s consistent. Would they furnish sandwiches at cost for a gathering of gays? Has anyone asked?

    What it succeeded in doing was creating a false “battle,” one that forces the Free Thinkers among us to decide which side of the line we will join. I have problems with that. Chick-Fil-A has never tried to ram anything down my throat. I’m not letting the manufactured “conflict” the Times foisted on us be the defining moment, or the incident that forces any of us to make unnecessary choices.

    1. Billy Howard

      Thanks for the perspective Ray….food, as they say, for thought and, as I said, I am holding out hope.

  8. Cathleen Hulbert

    I’m mad at all of the fast food chains, Chick-Fil-A in particular, for not offering health insurance options to the vast majority of their employees. Sorry folks, but being sick and uninsured is not a family value. Neither is saving a buck by forcing low-wage employees to put their kids on Medicaid.

  9. Great article Billy! Jesus actually said if you have been given much, much is expected of you.(Luke 12:48) Carry this forward into the way He loved people, and the people that He loved and I think we are all expected to have open hearts and eyes. If we want people to understand and see Jesus today, we must love them, not criticize and alienate…oh don’t get me started or I’ll get on the “family values”republicans who cut benefits…….

  10. Truett Cathey (Daddy Chick) has a long history of supporting right wing causes. I began my boycott in 1988 when he let Operation Rescue led by Randall Terry use his facilities to stage abortion facility “rescues” during the Democratic Convention in Atlanta. If you weren’t here at the time, it was an awful mess. Edward Pies afforded them the same luxury. And while we’re on it, I’m somewhat aware that Tom Monahan is no longer involved with Domino’s, but there’s another rabid anti-choice contributor. Haven’t eaten Domino’s pizza in about 25 years. Haven’t missed it either.

    1. Pie, pizza, fried chicken, too-cheap tacos, three-meat breakfast… I just realized something here. Since the conservatives are so hell-bent on preventing health care reform, we’d all be healthier anyway if we boycott all of their chain restaurants!

      See, the Republicans do so have a health care plan! You just gotta look real hard.

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