Chick-fil-A controversy shines light on restaurant's Christian DNA
February 4th, 2011
05:09 PM ET

Chick-fil-A controversy shines light on restaurant's Christian DNA

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

The ongoing Chick-fil-A flap - which has gay rights groups blasting the restaurant chain for donating food to an anti-gay marriage group - may be a fleeting controversy for a privately held company that is more accustomed to fiercely loyal patrons and generally positive press coverage.

But Lake Lambert, author of the book Spirituality Inc., says the flap may be a sign of more turbulence ahead for Chick-fil-A as it attempts to hold onto its conservative Christian business culture while expanding its chain beyond the Bible Belt.

“If you have a faith-based corporate identity and you want to function in the national marketplace, you’re going to continue to encounter resistance to those values because not everybody is going to share them,” says Lambert. “The only other option is some sort of secular identity and that’s not where Chick-fil-A is going.”

Lambert says Chick-fil-A is the most visible example of an American corporation trying to foster a specifically Christian identity. The company is privately held and family-run, making that task somewhat easier.

Lambert says Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy signed what Cathy describes as a “covenant” with his children when they took over the company, to help preserve its Christian DNA.

The current controversy erupted when some college campus and gay rights groups blasted the restaurant chain for donating free food to a Pennsylvania organization opposed to gay marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign, a major gay rights group, launched a letter writing campaign to the company, while the Indiana University South Bend went so far as to temporarily suspend Chick-fil-A service in its campus dining facilities.

The fallout provoked Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy to defend his company in a Facebook video and in a written statement.

“In recent weeks, we have been accused of being anti-gay,” Cathy said in a written statement last Saturday. “We have no agenda against anyone.”

“While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage,” the statement continued, “we love and respect anyone who disagrees.”

The gestures have not mollified many of the chain’s critics, some of whom are airing their grievances on Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page. The Human Rights Campaign is calling on the restaurant to begin participating in the Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies’ treatment of gays.

Christian culture pervades many aspects of Chick-fil-A’s operations, from its corporate purpose – which includes “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us” – to its policy of closing restaurants on Sundays to praying at restaurant openings.

According to a recent case study of the restaurant chain by the Yale School of Management, employees are encouraged to attend prayer services.

Chick-fil-A has over 1,500 locations and began moving beyond the Deep South in the last decade or so. Recently the company has expanded its number of restaurants in the Northeast, creating a more serious presence there.

According to its website, there is only one Chick-fil-A store in New York State, at New York University in downtown Manhattan.

Considering Chick-fil-A’s conservative Christian mission, perhaps the most striking feature of the recent controversy is how unusual it is for the company. As the chain continues to grow, they may find it more difficult to avoid the culture war.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Money & Faith

soundoff (3,197 Responses)
  1. Harvey Wallbanger

    If you don't like a corporation's political leanings, vote with your wallet; take your dollars elsewhere. No one is forcing you to eat at Chik's. There are plenty of other Burger Death joints will to take your money and clog your arteries.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  2. S.O.

    Chick-fil-a has just opened in my area, and thanks to this report I will be giving my business to them.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  3. Cliff Clavin

    I'm gay for Chick-fil-A.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  4. Garam Masala

    Good for Chik-Fil-A for having values and supporting them. The Human Rights Campaign are the most intolerant, hateful group out there and they won't rest until everyone who doesn't think like them is silenced. This is America where we have freedom which includes of religion. Don't like Chik Fil-A? Go elsewhere...and try to get a life while you're at it.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  5. Yeppers

    Another example if the ultra left and ultra minority crying foul. One of these days these groups will stop wining about what the majority of country disagrees with and move on. Chic had my support!!!

    February 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  6. SQZ

    Good for Chick-Fil-A. Getting tired of gay activism in every corner of life. Get lost.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  7. Philip

    Good for them, they've build their business on a strong set of principles and character which has obviously earned the respect and business of millions of Americans. I'm more than willing to give them my $. Maybe CNN can do their next article on all of the community and foster care support they've done over the years for thousands of teenagers. You can choose to eat wherever you want...take your business to Burger King as I'm sure their principles will earn your respect.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  8. brad

    I find rather disturbing and see that the dumbing down of the american public is alive and well, specially by many of the comments on this thread. No one seems to know , understand, or believe in the differences between a "CIVIL UNION" and a "MARRIAGE" Civil unions are between 2 people, recognized by the courts, etc.. those can be 2 women or 2 men.. a marriage is a SACRED COVENANT between a MAN and a WOMAN, SACRED and "set apart" for God and by God... (and do not start talking bout how bad marriage has gotten and the crap on tv etc etc blah blah ad nauseum) one's recongized by the true christians while one is NOT.. ... Political correctness is DESTROYING the intelligence and COMMON sense of this country... I feel bad for kids today... the way they are raised or the way they are NOT raised.. we are on our way to generations of people that have NO morals of right and wrong, NO faith, NO conviction of spirit and NO true grounding in God and what God's actually about.. and that's a shame.. When people don't let God into their lives, God then removes his blanket of love, protection and blessing.. so there you have it... that's why things are the way they are today.. you read it here first.. you can be sincere in your LACK of beliefts, Sincere in your PERSECUTION of those that do believe, but you can also be SINCERELY WRONG... we are going to spend FAR MORE time on the OTHER SIDE OF death then this side.. I personally would rather believe in something, live as if there's something better on the other side, be wrong and lose NOTHING, instead of believing in NOTHING, find out there IS something on the other side and LOSE EVERYTHING for eternity.. is YOUR PRIDE and arrogance worth an eternity of seperation from God? (roll that around in your heads for a while)

    February 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Michelle

      Most gay people that I know BELIEVE in god. This is not about belief...this is about cloaking yourself in "Christian Values" and trying to deny people simple human rights. Jesus would not be on the side of Chick a whatever it's name is...Christ took care of everyone, he didn't condemn, as "good" Christians in America do. PLEASE become more Christ-like and a whole lot less CHRISTIAN and the world will be a kinder, gentler place.
      PS-You will see, when you go over, how your intolerance hurt others. What is in store for you is that you will see how your "holiness" (read arrogance and non-compassion) has actually hurt YOU on the other side. You'll see.

      February 6, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  9. Don

    What "controversy" is CNN harping about. CFA is Christian all the way. I think the Christians can keep CFA in business for decades to come. If the gays don't like CFA's politics and want to boycott...all the better!

    February 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  10. Chris

    As a christian I think it's awesome to see a corporation willing to show its christian values. Constantly human rights groups attack christians as the source of hate against gays and lesbians. Not true. Christians dont hate or want to persecute gays (if you do you arent a true christian). Just because a person or company disagrees with your lifestyle or values doesnt mean they should "rip" that person or companies heads off. Speaking of human rights, can a private company not give whatever to whoever they please.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Amen, Chris! Praise God for Chick-Fil-A!

      February 5, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  11. Peter

    They import chicken pieces and parts? from third world countries and often times have rat carcasses that get cooked and served in all of their restaurants

    February 5, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  12. Lora

    So.....only gay homeless people are worthy of food? Hmmmmm.....nice ethics there for ya

    February 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  13. mike

    I'm lovin this! In fact I think we all should order Chick-Fil-A t shirts!!

    February 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Amen, Mike, I sure would love to get a T-shirt.

      February 5, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Jason

      Sign me up! Though I'm vegetarian, so I suppose it would be somewhat ironic... :).

      February 6, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  14. Rod

    What is truth ?
    Is truth simply a relative term, or always true in all cases ?
    Today if you believe the words of Jesus, who said: "I am truth", as absolute truth, you are labeled: not politically correct.
    It is so easy to go along with the "gay is ok" as the politically correct, but to do so is too take a stand against the Lord.
    But by taking this stand, you will be in good company, for the world hates Jesus, because he convicts it of sin,
    and teaches all of us to turn from our sin, not to embrace it as good. All of us have sin to over come,
    by saying that sodomy is not sin, we are denying the power of Jesus to deliver us, and instead
    we are trusting in the world.
    The Lord told us about the world, he said:
    There is a way that seemeth righ unto a man, but the end there of are the ways of death.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  15. HeIsGod

    Lambert says Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy signed what Cathy describes as a “covenant” with his children when they took over the company, to help preserve its Christian DNA.

    Good for you, Truett Cathy! Never allow those who appose with your break the covenant that you and your family has made with the Lord.


    February 5, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  16. tangentamor

    “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us”

    Can someone quote the verse in the Bible that encourages followers to contribute to obesity and abusive treatment of animals? Perhaps the plank from their own eye should be removed first...

    February 5, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      @ tangentamor –

      Covenant is how God first decided to deal with Mankind. We know this from studying the Eternal Covenant mentioned in Heb. 13:20, "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep" (NIV). In this covenant God the Father and the Son made an agreement with regard to the elect. This covenant was made before the universe was created and it consisted of the Father promising to bring to the Son all whom the Father had given Him (John 6:39; 17:9,24). The Son would become man (Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 2:5), become for a while lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7), and be found under the Law (Gal. 4:4-5). The Son would die for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2; 1 Pet. 2:24) and the Father would raise the Son from the Dead (Psalm 2).

      February 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  17. Disappointed...

    It is shameful to see some people that self-proclaim spirituality being so bluntly hateful on postings like these. It is such an oxymoron. It seems to me that more time should be taken on personal reflection and prayer and less on hate.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  18. JLA615

    So if you don't like segregated lunch counters, don't eat there? Sorry, that's not good enough. We have a moral obligation to stand against social injustice.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  19. Andrew

    As a gay man I really don't care much where their religious or political stance is. Not everyone is going to agree with you-so what? Their food is good. It's a damn fast food restaurant.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  20. Name*JC

    I applaud "Chick File A" for having and keeping a strong Christian faith background and belief in GOD.
    Just like there is freedom of speech in USA. They have the freedom and right to honor GOD. Its funny to me how the world is getting worse because the world chooses to leave GOD out of everything HE created. This company has done nothing wrong. This group should back off and leave this company.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.