Why I will never eat another meal at Chick-Fil-A

Being a socially conscious consumer isn’t easy and I try really hard to keep my politics compartmentalized so that I don’t have to go down a check list every time I go grocery shopping. Am I angry at Procter & Gamble this week? No, they dropped out of ALEC. Would buying this loaf of bread line the pockets of Archer Daniels Midland? Probably, but so would anything with corn in it.

It’s hard to be a good lefty without resorting to buying mung beans from a local farmer, but even then you’ll need to find out if he supports gay marriage and abortion rights. Wouldn’t want to eat right-wing mung beans.

So I’ve learned to pick my battles. I don’t stop watching James Woods movies simply because he’s a right-wing loon. I don’t stop shopping at Wal-Mart just because they are horrible to their employees. I don’t stop buying corn because Archer Daniels Midland is genetically modifying it to create its own pesticide. I don’t stop buying gasoline because Exxon poisoned the Alaskan coast and BP poisoned the Gulf of Mexico.

Some boycotts just aren’t practical.

But, in the words of my lovely bride, “I can go the rest of my life without eating at Chick-Fil-A.” And I can. For the record, here is my problem with Chick-Fil-A:

Over the past few years the company has given at least $5 million to the Marriage & Family Foundation (an anti-marriage equality group), Exodus International (a pray-the-gay-away group), and the Family Research Council (listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group). Dan Cathy, the company president, has not been shy about expressing his company philosophy with respect to gay marriage:

    • “We are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.”
      • I’m not a biblical scholar, but it seems to me that God would prefer we love each other, rather than use our wealth and power to ensure that some subsection of us are held apart as not as worthy of that love. I’m also pretty sure that the Bible reserves judgement for God, not Dan Cathy.
    • “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
      • The Bible has examples of lots of different kinds of marriage including forced marriage, child marriage and polygamy. It seems to me that Cathy is the one who is trying to define it according to the beliefs of this generation.
    • “We see all the twisted up kind of stuff that’s going on. Washington trying to redefine the definition of marriage and all the other kinds of things.”
      • Defining equal rights as “twisted up kind of stuff” is pretty arrogant, too.
    • “We are suffering the consequences of a society and culture who has not acknowledged God or not thanked God—he’s left us to a deprived mind. It’s tragic and we live in a culture of that today.”
      • I have no idea what he means here. I’m not sure if he’s blaming the economic climate on the gays or what. I don’t know what culture he’s living in, but the one I live in sees acknowledgment of God all the time. I see people thanking God on TV and in daily life every day. What deprived mind is he referring to (you know, aside from his own)?

Like I said, I’ve always tried to compartmentalize my politics from my spending because once you go down that road it’s hard to turn back. Even so, I’m sure I patronize companies that have political stances I would find appalling were it not hidden behind holding companies and “charitable” foundations.

But Dan Cathy made it impossible to ignore. Why is it, do you suppose, that more company presidents with similar views aren’t running to the AFA to express support for Cathy? Because they know that it isn’t good business to alienate customers. That’s why Chick-Fil-A released a statement shortly after the interview:

The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.

Translation: please don’t stop eating our food because our president expressed his opinion about gay marriage.  Now, Cathy has every right to express himself. He has every right to divert company funds to whichever groups he wants. I’m not trying to shut him up or Chick-Fil-A down. But their corporate message isn’t backed up by any evidence that the company actually respects members of the LGBT community.

Do they offer any benefits for domestic partners? No. Do they have any programs in place to support LGBT employees at all? No. Do they have a policy in place protecting LGBT employees from discrimination? No. In fact, the Human Rights Campaign gives Chick-Fil-A a score of zero. So forgive me if I don’t believe the corporate line.

To be clear, this isn’t about Chick-Fil-A being a Christian-run company. Some of my best friends are Christians. It is about a company actively supporting groups that are anti-gay. I like their chicken sandwiches, but I love my gay friends. If you’re working to deny them equality, then you don’t deserve my support.

There’s always KFC, which is owned by Pepsico, which has demonstrated support for their LGBT employees and customers.