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. LinCA

    Seeing the support for Chick-fil-A, I am amazed, no flabbergasted, no at a complete and utter loss to understand, how anyone, and I mean anyone, can hold these beliefs. How can any sane person, and I mean anyone, believe that there is a rational reason to discriminate against a disliked minority based on their religion? Isn't is excruciatingly obvious that those views are wrong, no, more than wrong, immoral?

    We live in a society that provides freedom of religion. The US Constitution, as the absolute highest law of the land, guarantees that everyone can freely exercise their own religion, and worship as they see fit. Freely exercising your own chosen religion is only possible if everyone else keeps their religion out of your life. The US Constitution therefor guarantees that religion can never set secular policy.

    If religion can never set secular policy, the religious argument against same sex marriage only affects those that adhere to that particular religion. It doesn't ever apply to anyone that doesn't subscribe to that religion. So, if you think that your religion prohibits same sex marriage, you are free to not enter into one, but you are not free to prevent anyone else from entering into one.

    Claiming that there is a religious argument to prohibit secular same sex marriage, IS trying to force your religion on someone else. It is the textbook definition of bigotry.

    July 28, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Chad

      It isnt discriminatory to say that you believe the law shouldnt be changed

      July 28, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "It isnt discriminatory to say that you believe the law shouldnt be changed"
      If you aim to do that so you can legally discriminate against gays, it most certainly is.

      July 28, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Chad

      And your argument that "Christians shouldnt be allowed to push for legislation that is inline with their beliefs"
      discriminatory by definition...

      Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on his or her membership – or perceived membership – in a certain group or category

      When you attempt to deny Christians the ability to lobby their government, you are discriminating.
      That's illegal.

      July 28, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Chad

      @Chad "It isnt discriminatory to say that you believe the law shouldnt be changed"
      @LinCA "If you aim to do that so you can legally discriminate against gays, it most certainly is."


      Want a law changed? just label enforcing it "discriminatory"

      July 28, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Chad

      The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) (Pub.L. 104-199, 110 Stat. 2419, enacted September 21, 1996, 1 U.S.C. § 7 and 28 U.S.C. § 1738C) is a United States federal law that defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. The law passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996. Under the law, no U.S. state or political subdivision is required to recognize a same-sex marriage treated as a marriage in another state. Section 3 of DOMA codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriage for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors' benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns

      July 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "And your argument that "Christians shouldnt be allowed to push for legislation that is inline with their beliefs""
      Not my argument. My argument is that there isn't any valid religious argument to be made for secular law.

      You said, "When you attempt to deny Christians the ability to lobby their government, you are discriminating."
      I don't. I'm just saying that in a civilized society the merit of laws is determined by rational arguments. No religious arguments meets that standard. Any religious argument should by any reasonable lawmaker be relegated to the garbage can because it, by definition, isn't rational.

      July 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • LinCA


      And DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional.

      July 28, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Chad

      @LinCA "Any religious argument should by any reasonable lawmaker be relegated to the garbage can because it, by definition, isn't rational"

      does this mean you're ready to throw out "thou shalt not murder"

      let me guess.. you agree with that one.. right?

      July 28, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Chad, you're an idiot. The law against murdering someone isn't religious. It didn't originate with the Ten Commandments.

      You really are such a slimy jerk.

      July 28, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • LinCA


      You're grasping at straws, it seems.

      You said, "does this mean you're ready to throw out "thou shalt not murder""
      In the jurisdiction where I live, there is no such law. And I couldn't fucking care less what you do with your religious rules.

      Just because there is overlap between religious rules and secular law, doesn't by any stretch of the imagination mean that the religious law applies to anyone outside that religion.

      Your 10 commandments, or any religious rules, don't apply to me. Secular laws do.

      July 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Chad

      @LinCA "In the jurisdiction where I live, there is no such law.[against murder]

      =>Where do you live??? Hell?? They have internet service there??

      July 28, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  2. karen

    It's true why can't we as Christians show our light? We are called to be the salt of the world, it is our belief we have not discriminated, we love everyone Chic Filet serves everyone, anyone can work there. Whats the problem it's alright to be or do anything else except for a Christian. In my opinion we are the ones being discriminated against! We as Christians love everyone. We may not agree on people's actions but we still love.

    July 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  3. brewster65

    I'm loving this.............you christians keep bringing it and I'll keep dumping on you. Love it!

    July 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  4. improving memory recall

    I am really impressed along with your writing talents as neatly as with the format to your blog. Is this a paid topic or did you customize it yourself? Either way stay up the excellent high quality writing, it is rare to look a nice blog like this one nowadays..

    July 28, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  5. Jim M

    Glad to here from someone who is a christn and lets all know it, Love you guys, keep it up.

    July 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I too am glad to know the truth about Chick-fil-A. It's always good to know which businesses step over the protected boundary of personal belief and actively work to support unfair discrimination. That way, those of us who believe that human rights are more important than arbitrary religious rules can boycott those businesses.

      July 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • brewster65

      I asked God if he eats at Chick Fillet...............she said it's Swiss Chalet or bust!!!

      July 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  6. AlanE

    I do not see a thing wrong with Chik-Fil-A, great food compared to the other fast food joints. I'm like this if you do not like them or their policies then simply do not eat there.

    July 28, 2012 at 3:45 am |
    • brewster65

      Ya, I'm sure you'll never get a bad chicken dinner from a fast food restaurant!!! (barf)

      July 28, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  7. brenda campbell

    Thank God for a business that will stand up for God's word,it is time christians start standing up for what is right,after all we sat back and allowed one woman to take prayer out of our schools.So as Christians let us not remain silent !!!!!!

    July 28, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Voice of Reality

      Well its about time that Christianity and all other organized religions are recognized for what they truly are.....cults for profit and control of the masses. Go ahead and flame me, but Im not talking to imaginary superior beings seeking guidance from male priests that cant keep their "holy" hands off the alter boys....now there is some irony.....that seems pretty "gay" to me.

      July 28, 2012 at 3:42 am |
  8. ray

    If you are offended by Chick-Fil-A's opinion of what marriage is, then don't eat there. And Simon, how does expressing your opinion stomp on the rights of others? I guess Christians should just give up their right to free speech?

    July 27, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • tallulah13

      They can believe what they want, but when they start giving financial support to groups that are trying to legislate unfair discrimination, they can expect consequences.

      July 28, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  9. Dave Anderson

    God Bless you for this stand. I will try to eat at chick-filet more than ever. Please don't give in, you are truley an inspiration to our country. You have the best resturant and the cleanest. Thank You Dave

    July 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • brewster65

      lol.......they're an "inspiration to our country"????? lol How do ya figure??? Keep on eating that crap....I'm positive you'll never get a bad meal from fast food!! (The whole industry is a barf bag..............). Is it any wonder why Americans are so badly out of shape and overweight?

      July 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  10. John

    "I fully support Truett Cathy and his stance on marriage and the family. God intended for marriage to be only between a man and a woman, "

    Some argue that since homosexual behavior is "unnatural" it is contrary to the order of creation. Behind this pronouncement are stereotypical definitions of masculinity and femininity that reflect rigid gender categories of patriarchal society. There is nothing unnatural about any shared love, even between two of the same gender, if that experience calls both partners to a fuller state of being. Contemporary research is uncovering new facts that are producing a rising conviction that homosexuality, far from being a sickness, sin, perversion or unnatural act, is a healthy, natural and affirming form of human sexuality for some people. Findings indicate that homosexuality is a given fact in the nature of a significant portion of people, and that it is unchangeable.

    Our prejudice rejects people or things outside our understanding. But the God of creation speaks and declares, "I have looked out on everything I have made and `behold it (is) very good'." . The word (Genesis 1:31) of God in Christ says that we are loved, valued, redeemed, and counted as precious no matter how we might be valued by a prejudiced world.

    There are few biblical references to homosexuality. The first, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, is often quoted to prove that the Bible condemns homosexuality. But the real sin of Sodom was the unwillingness of the city's men to observe the laws of hospitality. The intention was to insult the stranger by forcing him to take the female role in the sex act. The biblical narrative approves Lot's offer of his virgin daughters to satisfy the sexual demands of the mob. How many would say, "This is the word of the Lord"? When the Bible is quoted literally, it might be well for the one quoting to read the text in its entirety.

    Leviticus, in the Hebrew Scriptures, condemns homosexual behaviour, at least for males. Yet, "abomination", the word Leviticus uses to describe homosexuality, is the same word used to describe a menstruating woman. Paul is the most quoted source in the battle to condemn homosexuality ( 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 and Romans 1: 26-27). But homosexual activity was regarded by Paul as a punishment visited upon idolaters by God because of their unfaithfulness. Homosexuality was not the sin but the punishment.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul gave a list of those who would not inherit the Kingdom of God. That list included the immoral, idolaters, adulterers, sexual perverts, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and robbers. Sexual perverts is a translation of two words; it is possible that the juxtaposition of malakos, the soft, effeminate word, with arsenokoitus, or male prostitute, was meant to refer to the passive and active males in a homosexual liaison.

    Thus, it appears that Paul would not approve of homosexual behavior. But was Paul's opinion about homosexuality accurate, or was it limited by the lack of scientific knowledge in his day and infected by prejudice born of ignorance? An examination of some of Paul's other assumptions and conclusions will help answer this question. Who today would share Paul's anti-Semitic attitude, his belief that the authority of the state was not to be challenged, or that all women ought to be veiled? In these attitudes Paul's thinking has been challenged and transcended even by the church! Is Paul's commentary on homosexuality more absolute than some of his other antiquated, culturally conditioned ideas?

    Three other references in the New Testament (in Timothy, Jude and 2 Peter) appear to be limited to condemnation of male sex slaves in the first instance, and to showing examples (Sodom and Gomorrah) of God's destruction of unbelievers and heretics (in Jude and 2 Peter respectively).

    That is all that Scripture has to say about homosexuality. Even if one is a biblical literalist, these references do not build an ironclad case for condemnation. If one is not a biblical literalist there is no case at all, nothing but prejudice born of ignorance, that attacks people whose only crime is to be born with an unchangeable sexual predisposition toward those of their own sex.

    July 27, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Well done.


      July 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • brewster65

      Actually, God is a vegan............(you people crack me up).

      July 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  11. wes

    Why is is if you don't believe in gay marriage that the public paint you out to be the bad guy. What ever happened to the right to your own opinion. I'm not for discrimination just think people shouldn't be looked down upon from others if they don't agree.

    July 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Hi -wes...

      " What ever happened to the right to your own *opinion*. I'm not for *discrimination* just think people shouldn't be looked down upon from others if they don't agree. "

      Unfortunately, it is not 'just' about someone stating an 'opinion.' When one states an opinion such as this, that undeniably happens to have real world consequences, then it becomes more than 'just' an 'opinion.'

      The owners of Chik-fil-A not only are stating their opinions, but are also funneling large amounts of money into extreme right-wing christian organizations that are out actively promoting gays as 'sinners' and they will 'burn' forever, while also actively trying to stop gay marriage etc...

      Ultimately, in this country, gays, in general are treated as less than. They don't have a lot of the same rights under the laws as hetero's.

      Therefore... they 'are' without question demeaned, often hated, bullied, tortured, and yes... discriminated against, just for being different and not fitting into the right-wing zealots version of what they think the bible tells them.

      All this is being done, without 'any' shred of proof, that gays are harmful to society, but based on a book of silly.

      So... -wes, you say you "are not for *discrimination*" Well... if that's the case, maybe you ought to re-think what you originally posted.


      July 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Geri

      I don't think it's people, Wes, who paint you with a black brush if you're anti-gay. I think it's the media. They would like for the world to believe that we of Christian faith are weirdos and kooks. We know better, don't we...

      July 27, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      It is only when one uses their belief in a deity to justify denying equal rights to others that I have an issue. I don't paint all christians with a broad brush, just the ones who justify it. A great many christians do not have a problem with same se.x marriage. There are some of you who have enough sense to treat others as you'd wish to be treated.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Dodney Rangerfield

      Did you hear the one about a Canadian that minded its own business?

      July 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Dodney Rangerfield

      You won't. It thinks its bull sh it opinion is needed or wanted in someone else country.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Don't you ever get tired of being such an ass, Doddering?

      July 27, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Dodney Rangerfield

      Don't you ever get tired of kissing foreign ass?

      July 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  12. mdw1969

    I commend the Cathy's for standin up for their beliefs. It is a total crock that some of the Gay community wants to take it out of context and even people who are suppose to be our leaders and role models. I am totally appailed at people wanting to cause drama. THE STATEMENT NEVER SAID THAT GAY PEOPLE ARE BENENATH CHRISTAINS. A true Christian loves everyone flaws and all. We all have plenty of flaws. I believe it was made clear that the Cathy family believes in marriage and family as the bible says it is to be, however that does not mean he hates gays. So grow up and love one another flaws and all. NO NEED for all the drama. I will definatly eat at Chic Filet on Wednesday August !st. Maybe 3 times. AMEN

    July 27, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • YeahRight

      "I commend the Cathy's for standin up for their beliefs. It is a total crock that some of the Gay community wants to take it out of context and even people who are suppose to be our leaders and role models. I am totally appailed at people wanting to cause drama. THE STATEMENT NEVER SAID THAT GAY PEOPLE ARE BENENATH CHRISTAINS. A true Christian loves everyone flaws and all. We all have plenty of flaws."

      That's why you all continue to deny them their civil rights, you are trying to keep gays beneath you! Duh! Heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      July 27, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      That's like saying 'blacks and whites are equal, but they shouldn't get married to each other. I'm now gonna go grab a burger at my favorite racist joint.'

      July 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  13. Try THESE Guys Out

    You can definitely see your expertise in the paintings you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  14. Danny Rogers

    I fully support Truett Cathy and his stance on marriage and the family. God intended for marriage to be only between a man and a woman, but it seems that our President and his cronies like Raham Emanuel are bound and determined to persecute anyone with Christian values. Mr. Cathy is a courageous individual who stands up for his beliefs and I stand behond him.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • SImon

      It's a shame for your bigotry-driven argument that marriage predates your church and your god by thousands of years.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • SImon

      BTW, I just have to add: what is it with christians and their persecution complex? You seem to think that it is your right to stomp on the rights of others, and anybody who might speak up against you is obviously stomping on *your* rights – your right to stomp on others' rights. Seriously, the whole deep south of the USA needs a reality check, or a nuke.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  15. harry porter

    I support this resturant in this campaign. Thanks for supporting Christian ideals. I will eat in one of your resturants on Aug l, 2012. Amen!

    July 25, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Bigots Unite!

      Hooray for ignorance!

      July 27, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  16. Beading

    hi!,I love your writing so much! share we keep in touch more about your article on AOL? I need a specialist on this area to resolve my problem. Maybe that's you! Looking forward to see you.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  17. chep phim

    Thanks for any other fantastic article. Where else may just anyone get that kind of information in such an ideal way of writing? I've a presentation subsequent week, and I'm at the search for such info.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:18 am |
  18. send free text message

    Thanks for every other informative website. Where else may just I am getting that type of information written in such a perfect way? I've a undertaking that I am simply now running on, and I have been on the glance out for such info.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:55 am |
  19. this

    You are in reality a good webmaster. The web site loading pace is incredible. It seems that you are doing any distinctive trick. Moreover, The contents are masterwork. you've performed a fantastic activity on this subject!

    July 24, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  20. villa41

    GOD and my family LOVE Chick a Filet

    July 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
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.