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. I Kickbootie

    Marriage is such a sham, why does anyone give a flying french fry who wants to get "married." It is nothing but inviting the government into your private life and giving them total control over your future. Don't believe me? Try to get a divorce without a judge's signature. If they feel lie it, they can force you to pay alimony to your ex for the rest of your life, and if you don't pay, you are thrown in jail. This is the truth, and this is why gays shouldn't want to marry anyway. Say some vows with your partner, call yourself married, and count yourself lucky that the family courts can't intervene.

    BTW, Chik-Fil-A has great chicken sandwiches. Eat Mor Chikin

    February 8, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  2. Helen Wallace

    The reason Mormonism is not Christian is because it denies one or more of the essential doctrines of Christianity. Of the essential doctrines (that there is only one God, Jesus is God in flesh, forgiveness of sins is by grace alone, and Jesus rose from the dead physically, the gospel being the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus), Mormonism denies three of them: how many gods there are, the person of Jesus, and His work of salvation.

    Mormonism teaches that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones (D. & C. 130:22) and that Jesus is a creation. It teaches that he was begotten in heaven as one of God’s many spirit children (See the Book, Jesus the Christ, by James Talmage, p. 8). This is in strict contrast to the biblical teaching that he is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14), eternal (John 1:1, 2, 15), uncreated, yet born on earth (Col. 1:15), and the creator all (John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17). Jesus cannot be both created and not created at the same time. Though Mormonism teaches that Jesus is God in flesh, it teaches that he is "a" god in flesh, one of three gods that comprise the office of the Trinity (Articles of Faith, by Talmage, pp. 35-40). These three gods are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. This is in direct contradiction of the biblical doctrine that there is only one God (Isaiah 44:6,8; 45:5). See Trinity for a correct discussion of what the Trinity is.

    Because Mormonism denies the biblical truth of who God is, who Jesus is, how forgiveness of sins is attained, and what the gospel is, the Mormon is not Christian - in spite of all his claims that he is Christian.

    February 8, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Observer

      I used to work with a Mormon who told me she looked forward to having kids in heaven, because in heaven we will receive everything we didn't get on Earth. I pulled two Bibles out of my desk drawer and handed one to her, pointing out Matthew 22:23-30 and quoted Jesus in verses 29&30 to her. She replied "so you don't believe angels can have kids?". I was so floored, I couldn't even gather myself enough to say that Jesus doesn't believe it, so according to her own claim to faith in Christ, she shouldn't either.

      She also told me that Mormons believe Satan and Jesus Christ are brothers. Jesus "stepped up" to redeem mankind, and Satan didn't. Wow, that's twisted.

      Another time she contended that Eve was supposed to disobey God in the garden of Eden, because immortals can't have kids, and God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. I said she's saying that God gave her two mutually contradictory commands, forcing her to disobey one or the other. She disagreed, but couldn't defend the position. Besides, if immortals can't have kids, explain how will she and her husband have kids in heaven...?

      March 3, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  3. BB_Jones

    Don't you know you can always get a chicken sandwich at Jack in the Box or Burger King? Can't always have it your way.

    February 8, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  4. Norm

    If they were islamic, would this article even have been written?

    Much less all of these silly comments?

    February 8, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  5. Ken F

    There seems to be a lot of hate and untrue statements here.If you would like to know the truth about what mormans believe go to morman.org not these other hate filled web sites or statements that are antimorman.

    February 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  6. Dave


    February 8, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Larry the bellhop

      You are wrong. Communism is a socio-political theory that says the resources for production of goods should be controlled by the workers. It is not related at all to some Christian business discriminating against gays. I think they have the right to discriminate and be bigoted (it's a free country) and I think gays and truly civilized people have the right to call them out on their discrimination and not do business with them.

      February 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  7. Candy Evans

    So what. I like a good Indian restaurant but that doesn't mean I care to support Hindu beliefs. Heck, I'd eat at an Al Qaeda-owned restaurant if they could whip up a good chili burger.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  8. Dave

    Ya know, America, The gay's don't need a gay agenda. The American media IS the gay agenda!!!! This countrys media organization's and these gay's have done more to shove this immoral crap down everyones throats every single day, and immoralizing of this country right into the bowels of Hell!!! This is going to come down to a war between, and like it is now, the morality of keeping the values of the procreative, moral straight generation who have kept the human generations going for centuries, despite all of our problems, and the immoral, perverted "lifestyles", of the gay's!!! AMERICA, YOU ALL NEED TO WAKE UP OUT OF YOU CENTURIES- LONG COMA, AND DECIDE WHAT DIRECTION THIS COUNTRY NEEDS TO GO DOWN!!!

    February 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  9. APRIL


    February 8, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  10. str8 against h8

    Christianity is a breeding ground for bigotry and hate. And that's the truth.

    February 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • One Truth

      Christians are humans and you may have experienced humans that claim to be people of God that have been hateful. Don't confuse that with true Christianity. Christians, while not perfect, have always come to the aid of people in need more than any other religion and have shown selfless-love over and over and over. We are sinners (which is why we need Jesus) but Christians do not hate anyone.

      February 8, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • DrJKH

      Being against learned bad behavior is NOT "bigotry and hate."

      February 8, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Alex

      Christianity is a learned, bad behavior

      March 4, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  11. teddy

    God Bless this company for taking a stand for marriage between a man and a woman. More should.

    February 8, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • sarah

      you want to take a real stand for marriage? outlaw divorce! if you would do that i could completely understand your stance against gays. divorce is the real killer of marriage!

      March 2, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  12. Michael

    So what if gays are offended...gays don't need to eat there if they don't like their Christian stance!

    February 8, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Dave

      RE: So what if gays are offended...gays don't need to eat there if they don't like their Christian stance!
      I completely agree!!!

      February 8, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Rose77

      Not to state the obvious, but there are plenty of gays who are also Christian. There are plenty of non-gay Christians who have no problem with gay rights and marriage. Pat Robertson, et al do not speak for the majority of us by a long shot.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • Bible believin Christian

      Gay and Christian? Just because it may be rationalized in your church to boost attendance or whatever, doesn't make it so..if you are a Christian, READ your Bible. Live by it's words.

      February 9, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  13. Andersen Copper

    Who cares? If I want a chicken sandwich I'll go to ChickFil A. They should believe what ever they want as long as they don't discriminate when it comes to giving out a sandwich. Does anyone ask the Muslims in 7-11s why they treat customers here so mean? I can't wait till the gay activists go after Muslims owned businesses. Muslims are against gay rights, in fact they are against gays totally. So who will win Gays or Muslims????

    February 8, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • DrJKH

      I'd love to see that. Both sides are anti Christian, anti freedom, and anti America. The liberals won't know WHICH side to support.

      February 8, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Rose77

      "DrJKH", I suspect you know no Muslims, gays or liberals to make such a statement.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • DrJKH

      Typical liberal response: Attack the person because you cannot dispute the facts.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  14. SingleStepper

    I don't care what the people who make my sandwich think.

    February 8, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  15. Tisiphone

    Pretty sure Hobby Lobby has them beat...

    February 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  16. Ash

    Never been there. Never will either.
    Just as they are allowed to spread their version of 'truth', so has anyone the right to come along and state, 'it ain't so'.
    Guess what? 'It ain't so'

    February 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  17. Chico

    This is America. People still have the right to support or oppose President Obama's position against gay marriage. Even if we disagree with Obama we should support Chick-Fil-A's right to support it.

    February 8, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  18. skywatcher888

    It's obvious the chain has a religious agenda. It's food is loaded with salt and fat and extra caolires it is designed to send you to your maker asap.

    February 8, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Dboy66

      Jane said "I actually dared to ask why where the whole Sunday thing came from, "

      It's like this. Every day of the week is named for a mythological God. Saturday = Saturn, Sunday = the Sun, Monday (the moon goddess). The Christian god is celebrated on Sunday because Christianity is essential a Sun God cult. Not kidding, not trying to upset anyone. Just stating the facts. You'll have to do more research on your own, but you will find proof of this everywhere. It's a bit sad really. "Modern" humans are worshiping a Roman sun god religion derived from older Egyptian stories. This is why mythology is not taught very much in schools. It would be way too uncomfortable.

      February 8, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • CG

      So does McDonald's, which openly supports gay rights. What's your point? I'm Christian and still eat at both places.

      February 8, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • joedavnport

      hahaha i was seriously cracking up at this comment, so hilarious but true. Heart disease is the number one killer in the country, you're more likely to die from eating greasy fried chicken than anything else.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Rose77

      "Dboy66" Christianity basically usurped a lot of Pagan holidays, etc. because it was easier that way. Example, Easter is celebrated with eggs and rabbits–those are Pagan symbols leftover from that time.

      February 8, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Nick

      Skywatcher, so you're gonna show them by only eating at healthy restaurants like Mcdonalds and Burger King, right?

      February 8, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • jinx

      As you observe, this is a business based on a religious belief. If the business is going to be responsible, it needs to know that the day of worship is on the seventh day, Saturday.... Even looking at a modern calendar, you can clearly see this. In Spanish and Latin American countries, Saturday is Sabado, Sabbath... "On the seventh day, he rested". If you are going to take a day off, make sure it is the correct one and intended for the correct purpose. A "Sunday Law" is being planned by governments, countries, religions. If it is imposed it could be detrimental to our belief system. it is already being implemented in some European countries. Get the facts. Then observe.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Observer

      Dboy66 & jinx – FYI, the Jews observed the sabbath on the seventh day (our modern Saturday) under the old covenant of the law give through Moses. After Jesus' sacrifice fulfilled the requirement of law, the church moved their observation to Sunday to honor the resurrection, and named it The Lord's Day. As for the rest of your contentions, you are confusing the original real deal with the "me too!".

      March 4, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • LuneKeltkar


      Dboy66 is correct in his etymological summary. Sunday comes from "Sun Day," Monday from "Moon Day," Tuesday from "Tiw's Day," Wednesday from "Woden's Day," Thursday from "Thor's Day," Friday from "Frigg's's Day," and Saturday from "Saturn's Day." These names all come from ancient mythology far antedating christian mythology. You're historically incorrect to assert that the "Church" changed the sabbath from Saturday to Sunday after the alleged resurrection of Jesus. A christian church wasn't around at the time to make this change.


      March 4, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  19. Melissa

    Oh who cares! There are Christians, atheists, Muslims, and people who believe in the FSM in this country. Lets all shut up, grow a back bone and learn to live w each other. We're going to have to learn to deal all kinds of ppl with all kinds of beliefs whether we like it or not in this country. Sheesh – ppl get too worked up over religion.

    February 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  20. katybee

    why is it ok for our taxes to support Planned Parenthood (abortion provider) but not ok for a company to give food to whomever it wants to, should I be asking next time I donate sandwiches to a homeless shelter to ask everybody if they are for or against gay marriage? Get over yourselves people!

    February 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • ICarter

      Planned Parenthood provides many medical services to poor women with no insurance that have nothing to do with abortion (ie, prenatal care, medication, contraception, and general doctor visits). That's why tax dollars go there. They can not use federal funds to provide abortions.

      February 8, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Lulosnky

      I have two words and a letter: IN N' OUT!!!. Christian but cool, still put the bible verses in their food wrappers and cups. Yet, they pay their workers very well, they have THE BEST sales ratio number in the industry (Sales vs. Locations) and ANY weekend you go to ANY IN N' OUT you will see lines so long, they even have to have outside tellers with portable check out tablets taking orders. Live and let live, and they BLOW these southern yokels out of the water. I went to school in GA and I think I went to one of these greasy joints once. Crappy, uninteresting food that I guess must taste awesome to the country bumpkins that populate their home state. Here? Don't need you. For chicken, we had the Libanese rotisseries, which is the only way God intended chicken to be prepared. And the Georgia Bulldogs suck the sweat out of a dead man's balls. So there. (hey, I am divorced from a Souther Bell. What do you expect?)

      February 9, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Lulosnky

      Sorry, that was NOT meant as a reply but as a regular post. My Bad.

      February 9, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Observer

      To ICarter – I don't know what restrictions are on my money when the federal government takes it from me to give it to Planned Parenthood. The government never asked me, but the federal goverment forces me to financially support Planned Parenthood. (Unless you know how I can successfully refuse to pay a portion of my tax bill on moral ground.)

      But if you give food stamps to an underemployed person who has a bad habit, they can't spend "those" dollars on their bad habit because of food stamp reimbursement restrictions, but now they have more of their "other" dollars left over for that habit because of the food stamps.

      The same is true for tax dollars to Planned Parenthood, and I am tired of people who know better using that false, tired argument when everyone can see through it. I'm not that slow, and you aren't either.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:15 am |
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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.