Chick-fil-A criticized as anti-gay

Company President Dan Cathy says attempts to redefine marriage invite God’s judgment upon the United States.

By Bob Allen

Controversy over Chick-fil-A’s support of groups opposed to gay rights re-emerged when Baptist Press carried a story July 16 quoting the company’s president and chief operating officer pleading “guilty as charged” to criticism that the popular fast-food restaurant chain is anti-gay.

Chick-fil-A came under fire in early 2011 for donating millions of dollars to groups like the Family Research Council and Exodus International opposed to same-sex marriage. Company President and COO Dan Cathy responded with a statement denying that Chick-fil-A is anti-gay.

“We have no agenda against anyone,” Cathy said. “At the heart and soul of our company, we are a family business that serves and values all people regardless of their beliefs or opinions. We seek to treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect, and believe in the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself.”

In an interview with the North Carolina Baptist newspaper Biblical Recorder later picked up by the Southern Baptist Convention’s official news service, however, Cathy offered no apologies for the company’s support of conservative causes.

“Well, guilty as charged,” Cathy responded to a question about opposition to the company’s support of the traditional family.

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy 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.”

"We intend to stay the course," Cathy said. "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

Cathy sounded a similar theme June 16 on the syndicated radio program Ken Coleman Show in response to a question about the problem of fatherlessness in American families.

“I think 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,'” Cathy said. “And I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."

In the Baptist Press interview, Cathy, a member of New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., said he does not regard Chick-fil-A a Christian business, because individuals -- not companies -- are lost or saved, but that the company does operate on “biblical principles.”

Cathy said Chick-fil-A’s policy of closing all of its 1,600-plus restaurants on Sunday wasn’t a big deal when his father, S. Truett Cathy, opened the first restaurant in 1946, but living standards and lifestyles have changed.

He said the chain continued to include Sunday closings in its leases after malls began opening on Sunday by demonstrating that their restaurants could generate more business in six days than other tenants brought in seven.