retail news in context, analysis with attitude

There is a fascinating piece on CNN.com about a controversy being faced by the Chick-fil-A fast food chain,which has come under fire from some gay rights groups for having contributed food to an anti-gay marriage group.

The story notes that the chain occupies a unique niche in the marketplace - it is privately held and makes no bones about its conservative Christian culture, to the point where it closes all of its stores on Sundays so that its employees can go to church and be home with their families. Indeed, the heirs to company founder Truett Cathy have signed a “covenant” promising to preserve the company’s “Christian DNA” as it grows.

According to CNN, “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’.”

Lake Lambert, author of a book called “Spirituality Inc.,” tells CNN that “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. The only other option is some sort of secular identity and that’s not where Chick-fil-A is going.”
KC's View:
The simple truth, it seems to me, is that companies - especially private ones - have the right to support whatever groups they want. In doing so, they have to face the possibility that they will be criticized by those who disagree with them, and who have the right to air their grievances. And, they’ll have to face the possibility that their ability to grow and make more money may be limited by their political positions.

It will strike some of us as disingenuous to say “we love and respect gay people,” and then support the denial of equal rights to them. Not my definition of love and respect ... and I suspect that there are a lot of gay people who don’t feel the love and respect, who won’t feel that the words match the actions.

And by the way, I’m not a Biblical scholar by any means, but it always has been my impression that Bible sanctions a lot of things in various contexts that we likely would find to be abhorrent today. So I’m always a little uneasy with that whole “Biblical definition” thing.

But that’s just me. Chick-fil-A can do what it wants. And live with the consequences.

C’est la vie.