Feature

Chick-fil-A: Culture war on a bun

“All of a sudden, biting into a fried chicken sandwich has become a political statement.”

“All of a sudden, biting into a fried chicken sandwich has become a political statement,” said Bill Barrow in the Associated Press. Dan Cathy, an evangelical Christian who heads the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, set off the latest battle in the culture wars when he recently declared his company’s opposition to same-sex marriage, saying that the U.S. was “inviting God’s judgment” by legalizing gay unions. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino quickly denounced Cathy’s remarks and said his business wasn’t welcome in their cities. Cathy has a First Amendment right to express his homophobia, said Tom Keane in The Boston Globe. But that doesn’t make him “immune from the consequences of those remarks.” Emanuel and Menino have clear grounds to suspect that Chick-fil-A would illegally discriminate against gay employees and customers, and that’s more than enough reason to ban this bigoted business from their cities. 

But there’s no evidence that Chick-fil-A has ever discriminated against gays, said Betsy Woodruff in NationalReview.com. “Like every other successful business, Chick-fil-A happily sells its products to anyone who can fork over a few bucks.” All Cathy has done is express his constitutionally protected religious beliefs—which were already well-known, as the Bible Belt–based chain famously remains closed on Sundays. It should be the customers’ decision whether or not to patronize his restaurants, not some self-appointed “Grand Poo-bahs” of political correctness like Emanuel and Menino. Indeed, anyone “cheering on these pols ought to imagine the jackboot on the other foot,” said Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune. If we ban businesses simply because they offend our liberal ideals, it won’t be long before “reactionary public officials in some backwater town” start kicking out firms that support “Obamacare, abortion rights, or even marriage equality.”

Personally, I just wish I could eat my chicken sandwich in peace, said Alexandra Petri in WashingtonPost.com. “It is bad enough to have to examine the caloric content of my food.” Am I now also supposed to quiz restaurant owners about their stance on everything from gay rights to gun control before I eat in their establishments? If you make every meal into a major moral and political choice, “you are going to be missing out on a lot of excellent sandwiches.” Next thing you know, “bacon will come out against women’s rights, and then where will I be?”

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