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. Reality

    Then there is the Super Bowl of All the Con Games, The Bodily Resurrection of the Preacher Man aka Jesus::

    An update:

    Saving Christians from the Big Resurrection Con:

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty, wingie, talking thingies".

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
    "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."
    o p.168. by Ted Peters:
    "Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    So where are the bones? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  2. Matt

    I support what Chick-fil-A is doing and has done. I also believe in the biblical definition of marriage.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  3. Pastor Evans

    This is all about the hatred of Jesus Christ from those who are offended by Him because they live in darkness. If these people don't like what Chick-fil-A believes and stands for, then just don't support them. I guarantee it won't stop their success because if God is for you who can be against you. Nobody!!! What these gay and secular groups want is for us believers not to stand for what believe and believe the way do, which is perverted. Believers take a stand and the devil will bow down!!! No apologies here!!! Amen!!!

    February 6, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  4. Jill

    I'm not going to use this blog to get into a whole religious debate. Similarly, I believe it is wrong for companies to push religious agendas. I have added Chick-Fil-A to my list of business that I will never again buy from.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  5. Bill

    Just please keep using free-range chicken. That's all I ask. Don't care what you think about anyone's marriage.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  6. Ben

    Reckless journalism from a liberally-slanted news organization. I'm sure Fox News has a different way to spin the story. This is where the media starts screwing up society on either side. If I peed in my pants last night and the media reported it publicly, who knows how I would be labeled. Point is this: the media can spin any story and any topic to fit their political and social agenda. Don't feed the frenzy. Love others as you want to be loved, despite their choices you may disagree with.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  7. Frances McCartney

    I personally have never queried, 'What are your religious beliefs? Political views?' before giving money to charity,food and clothing or an older car to the needy. Giving is giving, without strings attached.

    The Church of Latter-Day Saints DID MOT donate any funds to the Prop 8 election. There are high profiled people in the LDS Church who are polls apart in their political belief system. IE: Harry Reed of Nevada- Democrat and Hatch from Utah- Republican. There WAS a successful grassroots effort on the part of private citizens who happen to be of the LDS (MORMON) faith who fanned out in their communities all over California in an effort to Pass Prop 8. There is a big difference in private citizens uniting for a cause and a Church donating funds...

    The Church of Jesus Christ is a Christian Church. We believe in the Son of God as the Savior of all mankind. We believe that he was sent by His Father and our Father (God) to come to earth and to pay the debt incurred by all of us, as we are all imperfect. He then rose again, resurrected,(his Spirit was reunited with his body), and he returned to our Father in Heaven where He is the mediator between the human race and The Father.

    Eat Chicken, don't eat chicken. Do try to be tolerant of all of God's children as we strive to live good lives. There is Tribulation in this world, but 'Be of Good Cheer for I (Jesus the Christ) have overcome the World...'

    February 6, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  8. Susan

    Congrats to Chic-Fil-A for standing up for what they believe in! I think now I will eat there more!

    February 6, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  9. Keli

    If this were a company that supports gay rights, gay marriage, and hung a rainbow flag outside of it's establishment it would be applauded and no one would dare say it was "controversial" because it's politically correct. However, no one with opposing views is allowed to do anything anymore without controversy. I will never understand why one opinion is accepted, condoned, and allowed to persist while the other is degraded. I thought freedom of thought (and religion!) was a right we all had. If one side is allowed their opinion and belief, the other side should be allowed theirs as well. LEAVE THEM ALONE.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  10. MP

    This has absolutely nothing to do with "human rights" in any way whatsoever. It is a matter of a private companies right to make its own policies. I don't particularly like their model but its none of my business...nor yours.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  11. a real human

    when you all turn into hypocrites is when i get upset....its like black people creating black history month...what if a white person did that...then it would be racist...gay people want to be accepted and not hated on...the answer is not to turn around and hate and attack everyone else.....really humans in america are fuct....no way out of it...you have all entangled yourself in a web of hate....grow up

    February 6, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  12. get real

    There is no DNA strand that identifies religion, be it Christian, Muslum, Mormon or Pagan.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  13. Harold Dongson

    Gays are evil and shouldn't partake in eating chicken!!!!

    February 6, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  14. vp


    Why not, Tony? It's their business; they can serve whomever they want.


    That is not how the law works in the United States...

    February 6, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  15. Darianmk

    There's this thing called "Freedom of Choice". We have the right to eat wherever we so choose. I am so tired of the gay community (which is a very, very small group people) trying to impose their logic on everyone. Chick-fil-a has the right to donate money to whatever organization they want which in this case was a church that supports marriage between a man and a woman. If you're gay and don't like Chick-fil-a because of where they donated THEIR MONEY than go to McDonald's, Burger King, or Jack-N-The-Box etc. Also I am black and stop comparing gay equality to the prejudice of blacks, and also as being black person I have never given any money the NAACP. Not because I am against them, I just personal haven't.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  16. JTG

    The only remaining structures in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were the Chick-Fil-A restaurants. What does that tell you?

    February 6, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  17. Darianmk

    There's this thing called "Freedom of Choice". We have the right to eat wherever we so choose. I am so tired of the gay community (which is a very, very small group people) trying to impose their logic on everyone. IChick-fil-a has the right to donate money to whatever organization they want which in this case was a church that supports marriage between a man and a woman. If you're gay and don't like Chick-fil-a because of where they donated THEIR MONEY than go to McDonald's, Burger King, or Jack-N-The-Box etc. Also I am black and stop comparing gay equality to the prejudice of blacks, and also as being black person I have never given any money the NAACP. Not because I am against them, I just personal haven't.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  18. ru serious

    ...If you don't like their policy (this is a privately held company after all) then don't go to their restaurants! STFU already...quit complaining and STOP playing the victim card...wah wah wah, we ARE a nation of wimps.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  19. R Harris

    I see, equal rights and tolerance must be extended to everyone in the gay community while they limit the rights of those who don't agree with them. Hypocrites!

    February 6, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  20. Yoyoyoda

    The last laugh will be on the people who eat at this dump. The food is horrid and leads to why our TV commercial breaks in the US are OVERLOADED with drug ads many of them for GI and cholesterol problems. Conservatives love their legal drugs more then they love Jesus.

    February 6, 2011 at 10:01 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85
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.