Not to sound like a hipster or anything, but Will and I have already been boycotting Chick-fil-A for like a year or so now. We’ve even guilted Kasey into swearing off of their food, which is difficult for him considering that their restaurants offer “College Nights” twice a week where sandwiches are two for one. Of course, we (read “Will”) have known about Chick-fil-A’s antigay beliefs for a while now. We even happen to have a friend, who is and out and proud gay man, who had the misfortune of working for them for a short while. He made the mistake of being open about his sexuality at work, which led to his manager telling him that he had to “leave his lifestyle at the door” when he came to work. His shift manager would also call him periodically outside of work hours, so that he could make sure that our friend was “living a righteous lifestyle, both at and away from work”. Needless to say, that didn’t last very long…
But I’m glad that news reports have sparked a sudden awareness in Chick-fil-A’s ultra-conservative politics, as well as sparking a debate over corporations in politics overall. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and pretty much the whole internet has been ablaze lately with statements both for and against the company’s stance. Frankly, I’m not surprised, since virtually every major news story sparks debate all over social media these days. I’m almost hesitant to log in to any of these sites on days when a major story breaks (but then my addiction always ends up winning anyway). Recently, though, in my sifting through the various fast-food debate comments, one particular article from The Atlantic caught my eye. The article pretty much sums itself up with its tagline: “Do we really want a country where people won’t do commerce with those who have beliefs different than their own?”
Jonathan Merritt, the article’s author, defends the fast-food chain against what he calls “the ineffective boycott culture that’s springing up across America”. He argues that, in spite of their stance in this subject matter, the company also donates to a number of very worthy charities. He also argues that, in the many years that he has frequented their establishments, “I’ve never witnessed any customer refused service or even treated differently. On the contrary, Chick-fil-A is known for offering world-class customer service to each person that walks through one of the restaurant’s doors.” He claims that boycotts rarely cause any sort of financial damage (mind you, his article was written prior to the Muppet fiasco), and instead fuel the fire of polarization that has continued to divide this country. Furthermore, he maintains that it’s unhealthy to have politics invade every aspect of our daily lives.
Before you start criticizing him for having the back of a homophobic company, you have to admit that the man has a point. How many of us roll our eyes whenever One Million Moms threatens a boycott whenever another organization voices their support of Marriage Equality? How many of us laugh when these boycotts do nothing to hurt said organizations? It seems unfair for us to judge these One Million Moms for their actions, and then turn around and do the same thing the minute someone voices opposition, right? Besides, this is the United States. People should be free to start whatever kind of company they want. I have absolutely no idea how an overpriced, artery-clogging, fried chicken sandwich can glorify God…but if someone wants to start a company that somehow does just that by selling said sandwiches, then that’s their right as an American. Just like it’s my right as an American not to partake.
I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like Merritt misses the mark completely as to why I myself choose to boycott Chick-fil-A. I realize that, out of the many people who support our cause, relatively few of them lack the conviction necessary to alter their eating habits dramatically. I also realize that the small minority of people who actually manage to follow through on this boycott will do relatively little to damage their bottom line (unless you happen to own the Muppets or something). That being said, as much as I’m sure that they donate to a number of worthy causes, they also donate to a number of not-so-worthy ones, like Exodus International, the National Christian Foundation, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Family Research Council, the Marriage and Family Foundation, and the Georgia Family Council. These are groups designated as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. We’re also not talking about small donations, either. We’re talking about millions in contributions over the course of many years. So as much as it doesn’t really affect anyone if, say, a company declares its opposition to Marriage Equality, since they’re simply stating an opinion, Chick-fil-A is guilty of worse crimes. They’re funding organizations who are actively trying to impede or stop the progress of civil rights in this country…or worse (look up “Exodus International”). All JCPenney did was have a lesbian spokesperson. All Oreo did was release an add for Pride month. I would hardy consider these acts comparable, but that’s beside the point. The point is that, as deplorable such acts might be, it’s still within their right as a company–I just don’t want any part in it. The unfortunate reality is that, once you hand over your money to someone, you relinquish your right to determine how it’s spent. So if the only way to guarantee that none of my hard-earned money gets donated to any of these hate groups is to simply not eat there, then so be it. I don’t do it to make a statement; I do it so that my conscience is clear at the end of the day.
All in all, while I think that this article makes a valid point or two, I also feel that Chick-fil-A has taken their stance to a level beyond what a vast majority of other companies are willing to do, regardless of who or what they support. In doing so, they have put a giant target on their back (see what I did there?), and must now suffer the consequences for their actions. Do I think said consequences will cause a lot of damage? No. Do I hope for it? Abso-freaking-lutely. Meanwhile, go ahead and enjoy your chicken if you must, Mr. Merritt. Just know that your actions have consequences too.