Make no mistake, Chick-Fil-A makes a really good chicken sandwich. Their waffle fries aren’t bad either. It’s also a place where you know if you order a coke, you’re going to actually be served a Coca-Cola. So, if I like the food they serve, why don’t I eat there anymore?
There’s lots of people out there who would have you believe it’s because of the statements made by Dan Cathy last month about his personal beliefs. In an online post on July 16th, the Baptist Press reported, “Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position. ”We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.” I support Mr. Cathy’s right to express his views and beliefs. I’ll defend him until I’m blue in the face, even though I disagree with him. I expect him to do the same for me.
However, if a few select mayors hadn’t gotten involved, most people probably wouldn’t have even heard about Mr. Cathy’s quote. Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee all issued statements that indicated the values represented by Chick-Fil-A were out of step with the values of their respective cities. If that was all they had said, maybe they would have gotten away with it. But they went a step further. They indicated that Chick-Fil-A wasn’t welcome in their cities and that they would attempt to ban any Chick-Fil-A restaurants trying to open in their cities. At least New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the high road. In a statement made on the John Gambling radio show, Bloomberg said, “You can’t have a test for what the owners’ personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city. You really don’t want to ask political beliefs or religious beliefs before you issue a permit. That’s just not government’s job.”
Bloomberg is right. What his fellow mayors are doing is stepping all over the first amendment. We all have a right to disagree with Mr. Cathy’s viewpoints and beliefs. But when a public official attempts to ban a business because of the views of its owner or CEO, it has violated that individuals right to free speech. The actions of these mayors brought out the full force and fury of right wing conservatives. They accused the liberal left of trying to silence anyone who disagrees with them. They didn’t just go after the offending mayors, they went after progressives as a whole, stirring up another firestorm.
Just for the record, the freedom of speech guaranteed by the first amendment means that we can all express our opinions without worrying about whether the government will suppress that speech. It doesn’t mean that we’re free from having others disagree with us.
So, back to the original question. If I have no problem with Mr. Cathy holding and expressing beliefs that differ from my own, why do I not frequent his restaurants? The answer is simple. I don’t eat Chick-Fil-A sandwichs anymore because of where the company chooses to donate its money. And my decision to boycott the restaurant was made long before Mr. Cathy decided to go on record about his beliefs.
According to research conducted by EqualityMatters, in 2010 Chick-Fil-A, through its WinShape foundation, contributed approximately $2,000,000 to groups that actively seek to restrict equal rights for LGBT individuals. The contributions can be broken down as follows:
WinShape Gave Over $1.9 Million To Anti-Gay Groups. In 2010, WinShape donated $1,974,380 to a number of anti-gay groups:
[Winshape 2010 Publicly Available IRS 990 Form via Foundation Center, accessed 6/27/12]
To be fair, I recognize that some of these groups provide valuable services for families and the communities they serve and are not exclusively anti-gay organizations.
So you’re still wondering, what’s the big deal? So a company makes donations to a charity? If I like the food, why don’t I eat there? It’s simple, really. I don’t want even a percentage of a penny of my money to go to these organizations. When I buy a sandwich at Chick-Fil-A, the revenue the company makes goes to all of the functions of the company. A portion goes to the cost of chicken, the bun, and the pickle. A portion goes to pay the cashier and the cooks. A portion goes to pay for the electricity, the building, and the franchise fees that go back the corporation itself. Those franchise fees go to pay for advertising that all restaurants profit from. It helps pay executive salaries and other overhead expenses. And a small, small amount goes into the pot that gets divvied up among the corporations charitable donations. From that pot in 2010, almost $2,000,000 went to charitable organizations that are actively working to undermine my personal well being. Because I don’t want to fund my own personal well being, I don’t eat at Chick-Fil-A.