Do we really want a country where people won't do commerce with those who have beliefs different than their own?
Dan Cathy, president of one of America's largest express fast food chains, has been frying more than chicken filets this week. The Chick-fil-A executive infuriated gay and lesbian groups when he again defended his company's anti-gay marriage position in an interview this week with a Christian news outlet.
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit," he said. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
Not surprisingly, his comments were met with fury by those who support same-sex marriage. The company was labeled a "hate group" by many on Twitter and in the blogosphere, and drew promises of boycotts from notables including The Office star Ed Helms. Meanwhile, Americans who patronize the chain's 1,600 locations were left wondering what to do.
Should they swear off the legendary chicken sandwiches to support gay rights? Or could they eat one of the filets anyway, knowing their dollars would be but a drop in the bucket for a chain that has more than $4 billion in annual sales and donated a pittance to groups they may disagree with?
I'd argue the latter -- and this has nothing to do with my views on gay marriage. It's because Chick-fil-A is a laudable organization on balance, and because I refuse to contribute to the ineffective boycott culture that's springing up across America.
First of all, Chick-fil-A is not a hate group. In a statement released yesterday, company leaders made their commitment to equal service clear, "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."
As a native Atlantan, I've dined at the chicken chain more than I'd like to admit over more than two decades and even interacted with its leadership team. 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.
Additionally, the organization gives millions of dollars each year to charitable causes -- and not just to "pro-family" groups. It funds a large foster care program, several schools of a higher learning, and a children's camp. It has provided thousands of scholarships for Chick-fil-A employees to attend college and grow past the service sector where they got their workplace start. (On Friday, the company provided free meals for Aurora, Colo., policemen.)
And the company's leaders claim to do all of this out of convictions rooted in the Christian faith. Anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of the company should know that it does not hide its commitment to biblical values. Its corporate statement of purpose since 1982 has begun, "To glorify God..."