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)
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  6. TruthPrevails :-)

    To all you christards speaking out against Family Values, read you buybull and stop being such hypocrites...your own imaginary friend is horrible...
    According to the buybull, marriages must be of the same faith. Not only should a wife be subordinate (Ephesians 5:22) but she must prove her virginity lest she be stoned (Deuteronomy 22:20-21). Marriages should be arranged. If a woman's husband dies without having had a son, she must marry his brother and have intercourse until they have a son (Mark 12:18-27). Many of the 'men of god' were not only married but had at least one concubine (Abraham, Caleb, Solomon). God frequently blessed polygamists (Esau, Jacob, Gideon, David, Solomon, Bellshazzarr). So forgive us if we're not interested in your Traditional Family Values.

    Look in the mirror and stop judging people based off a book that was written 2000 years ago...when you belief impedes on the basic human rights of people who are causing you no harm or harm to society, then your belief fails horribly and you deserve to be called on it.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • My Belief

      Genesis 2:8-15 says that there was no helper for man (man) so he formed a helper (WIFE-female) for man. 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother (marriage- both male and female) and clings to his wife and they will become flesh. And the man and his wife (marriage) were both naked and were not ashamed. (Marriage of man and woman was GOD's Idea) It was men and women who decided it was o.k. to be married man to man, or women to women.
      Romans 1:24-31 Its not what I think or feel but is what my belief (GOD) says and tells me on how I should live.
      I also do not hate gay people, just their way of thinking, or beliefs.
      Just like all those names in the Bible I also live by" faith" and the truth of the LIVING HOLY BIBLE.
      I have one last thought........If you don't really care about what the Bible means or says ..Why the big uproar.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  7. LoveLiveLove

    To all the upset straight folks. You may deny the right to love and marry, all you wish. You may turn your heads at the sight of a same gender kiss. But like it or not gay people have always existed and always will exist. If you choose to hate, refuse to see and continue to hold tight to your bible, your traditions of marriage will destroy family's. You allow us the right to exist but refuse us the right to live. You have allowed your bible, your traditions of marriage to speak hate. You have allowed your opinion to prevent my right to love, to live. You will not make me love someone I do not. You will not prevent me from loving someone I do. I can not expect you to give me the right to love, to live. For it is not yours to give. I have the right to love, to live I gave it to myself. It was mine to give. It will be mine to marry. You will know it, It was never your choice.

    August 4, 2012 at 2:48 am |
    • Lonechild

      I am pro gay ... I strongly disagree with Chck Fil A's position on marriage - However – I will fully defend their right to believe as they do. Many soldiers have fought and died so that we could have our freedoms. Among these freedoms is the right to religious freedom and free speech. I have the right to love who I wish but I must respect others right in the process. We can debate and even hold legal protests but if we wish for our rights to be protected - we can not limit the rights of others.

      August 4, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Sorry, it is not a matter of hate as you put it. It is what is right and what is wrong. Why do you think God destroyed Soddom and Gommorah. Read the Book of revelation and you might get a shock

      August 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Voice of Reason


      You are kidding, right?

      August 4, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      "You will know it, It was never your choice.

      And you will know that it was your choice to acknowledge God's laws and His gift of salvation in Christ Jesus, but you chose to be your own god, therefore you will not be able to claim you didn't know and that ti is God's fault when you end up in that place of the damned called Hell.
      Because we are not all God's children, as some think erring from the truth....It is whom you honor and follow that is your father.... There is only two choices. God or satan. no in between. Because those who oppose God, are already in satan's camp!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
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    August 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Whaaaaat? a drunk Russian.....loaded with too much vodka! LOL!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  9. Im so confused

    Protesting chicken is gay..Stay straight chickens- people need to eat.

    August 2, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  10. Get Real

    Please explain to me who has been discriminated against? No one has been turned away from Chick Filet for their beliefs. The restaurant chain support a cause they believed in. It just looks to me like this groups desire to hurt the franchise has back fired and everyone else showed up to purchase meals and show support for Chick Fillet. One group of people with a particular view point can not hurt this restaurant by their childish actions of " I don't like what you said, so I am not going to play with you." Don't like their food don't go there, but your opinion of whether you like their point of view doesn't hold much clout with the rest of America! We love Chick Fillet!

    August 1, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  11. Barbara Ritzman

    My granddaughter and I went to show our support of the stand taken by the owner on marriage and we could not even get close to the restaurant because of a huge traffic jam of people there showing their support. It brought tears to my eyes.


    August 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Right on. It is about time to see someone take a stand for what is right rather than just saying everything is ok if it feels good. No sense of right or wrong. That is what is wrong with this world today. I thank their talking a stand is GREAT

      August 4, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Everyone has a free will. You can choose right or you can choose wrong. Just be ready to answer to God for your choices

      August 4, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Bigots abound...equal rights for you means equal rights for all...get over your self-righteous selves and join the 21st century....btw, those computers you are using were invented by Atheists.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Dodney Rangerfield

      Did you hear the one about the Canadian bully that minded its own F'n business?

      August 4, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Dodney Rangerfield

      You won't the ass hole likes to pretend it is an American.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Jen

      Holy truth prevails, Dodney/captain America/pervert alert is obsessed with you. Tracks you minute by minute on this blog. You should be flattered!

      Dodney, I'm a Canadian living in the US. I call home all the time and we laugh all the time about how stupid half of Americans are. Luckily I live in the northern part where people actually get an education that is better than the third world. Unfortunately you are obviously from the south where you receive the worst education in the entire industrialized world. Sucks to be you!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
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  13. Cyrus

    Tempest in a tea pot? Threat to freedom? You decide...

    Freedom and the Chicken Sandwich.


    July 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  14. Tricia Alex

    Amazing how nothing used to be open on Sunday. Truly a day which was considered to be a family day. If it bothers some individuals for any reason they need to stay away and go where they are happy. I am proud of their core values and will always go out of my way to get the best food from Chic Filet. When I can't eat there on Sunday, then I thank God for all of the employees and staff are having the privilege to be with family. We really can survive without it being open either because of religion or gay marriages. We all have the right to stand up for our beliefs as others do; they do not need to support Chick Filet and I'll stay away from their activities that I feel are wrong or feel God and family should be first. Maybe so much of the current anger and hatefulness we have in our country would decrease because there would actually be family/God time. You go Chick Filet.

    July 31, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • Deborah

      PRAVO! Well said.

      August 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  15. ghan

    I support chick fil a 100% ,every time somebody says something it seems they offend someone and they want an apology.like the person above says you can believe what you want it doesnt mean everyone else has to agree with that.if you are gay why does everyone have to except that,i personally dont think it is right.fire away

    July 30, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  16. John

    Well I wonder with all talk back and forth our God and Country . If anyone saw the Amercian Flag that flys in Front of the store that has the CO. LOGO on the same pole . I said this is disrespecting our flag.

    4241 4th St N. St Petersburg North FL. GOD BLESS AMERICA

    July 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • !(%$


      July 30, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  17. Wayne

    Having religious conviction is good as long as it is true. Claiming to have a family oriented outlook is to be honored as long as actions follow that clalim. However, serving fast food that in known to be a contributer to obesity and other health problems is not the act of someone who acts to support families.
    Yes, hypocrisy should be pointed out no matter which banner is tries to hide behind. Is giving money to support rightious groups an act of support or placation of guilt?

    July 29, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Get Real

      You are grasping at straws....so take down all of the American restaurants that promote obesity!

      August 1, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • akdaniel96

      obesity is asymptom of heart disease. and restaurants DON'T support obesity. in a round-about way, people do. WE choose to eat there, not corporations. It's people like you, who say that people need to have decisions made for them, that make things unpleasant for all. Not only does your comment show the ignorance of yourself, but it can also be assumed that the stance is to take these restaurants down, no? Food is food, beliefs are beliefs, and a family supports "obesity" not restaurants. In the end, the common man makes the decision to consume foods bad to his health, and in the end it is him who reaps what he sows.

      August 3, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  18. Bonnie

    I thought that in this country we had freedom to worship the way we wanted, and act according to our beliefs. I guess that is dead in America now? Christian bashing seems to be the new thing "out there", and it's time to quit that! I will stand along with the other 2 million people and go to Chick fil A and support them...on MONDAY, when they are open. And today, I will go worship God...while I still can in this country.

    July 29, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • midwest rail

      And the melodrama continues unabated. No one's 1st Amendment rights have been violated, no one's right to worship as they please has been infringed. Contemporary faux Christians have marginalized and vilified gay people for decades or longer. Now that they have finally begun to fight back, you moral hypocrites wrap yourselves in the mantle of victim-hood and cry persecution. Absolute hogwash.

      July 29, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "I thought that in this country we had freedom to worship the way we wanted, and act according to our beliefs."
      Yes. Everyone has that right. What you don't have is a right to expect anyone else to do the same.

      You said, "I guess that is dead in America now?"
      You guessed wrong.

      You said, "Christian bashing seems to be the new thing "out there", and it's time to quit that!"
      Christians can be as stupid as they want to be. Only when they try to force their delusions on the rest of us, is when they'll get pushed back. Keep the nonsense to yourself, and you won't hear from me.

      You said, "I will stand along with the other 2 million people and go to Chick fil A and support them...on MONDAY, when they are open."
      You do that. Go show the world that you are a bigot who supports discriminating against others simply based on your interpretation of an ancient fairy tale.

      You said, "And today, I will go worship God...while I still can in this country."
      You are free to talk to, and worship your imaginary friend every day of the week.

      July 29, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Bonnie

      You can worship how you want. Noone is stopping you but that does not mean there is right and wrong in this world. WAKE UP

      August 4, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  19. Richard

    Praise the Lord that Chic Fil A is not afraid to stand up for its Christian values. The USA was built by God-fearing people and has been going downhill for many years.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • PRISM 1234


      August 4, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Bonnie

      Right on Richard. I agree 100%.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      So many bigots, not enough lions. Now all of you put down your buybull's and get real educations. Your country was not nor will it ever be built on christard values. Your imaginary friend can't be proven to exist and you're all gullible fools!!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      TP, why do you always call Christian people who stand on their principles "bigots", even if and when they don't offend you by derogatory remarks.?
      This makes YOU a bigot , if there ever was one!
      And here is for you some food for thought: The Truth will Prevail! But you'll be surprised because it won't be what you think! It will be a day you wish you never heard the ones whom you call bigots now, because you won't have any excuses. May God have mercy on you while you still have time!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @PRISM 1234

      "...why do you always call Christian people who stand on their principles "bigots""

      Uh, let's see....oh yeah, their principles yell bigotry. Get it prissy?

      August 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  20. Truth Speaks

    Hate is hate. Ignorance is ignorance, improper translation is still wrong.

    God will stomp out religions and groups like this, and try divinity be known.

    A repeat of christian protests to interacial marriage with bible's versus spewed.

    A repeat of the other horrific hate agaisnt others, including native americans. HAve you ever sat and listened to a grandfather tell you how he was beaten nearly to death by a nun and priest? SHowign you the perm scars on hsi back.

    Stop making excuses. Stop living a a mislead life decieved to believe you follow God.

    IF yoru hate and acts agaisnt thsoe that care about each other is a reflection of your GOd, then you worship Satan.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Hard to worship imaginary creatures that don't exist!!! Typical christard though...too incompetent to think for yourself!!!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:21 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.