The National Catholic Review

I’ve never eaten at Chik-fil-A, and I don’t plan to go out of my way for fast-food fried chicken, but many people seem quite  enamored by their menu offerings and thus conflicted when deciding to boycott the company. Why the boycott?

Chik-fil-A is a restaurant chain owned by Southern Baptists who don’t shy away from their faith, even to support their bottom line. Stores close on Sundays, and the president of the company, S. Truett Cathy, has thrust himself in the contentious debate over same-sex marriage.

The bad blood between the restaurant chain and gay-rights supporters has been simmering for some time, and finally boiled over earlier this month when it was revealed that the company supports anti-same-sex marriage groups, including the controversial Family Research Council. In an interview with the Baptist Press, Cathy said that his company was “guilty as charged” when asked if it supports a particular biblical definition of marriage and family.

Facebook lit up with postings condemning Chik-fil-A, The Onion wrote a piece about a new homophobic sandwich, and even Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino got in on the action, writing a letter to the company suggesting they look elsewhere for expansion opportunities: “I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston,” he wrote. “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

Is there a difference between a public boycott of a company and an elected official joining the fray? As The Boston Globe editorialized, those on the left would be rightly outraged if a conservative mayor voiced opposition to gay-friendly cities locating in his or her city, so perhaps the same principle should apply here. Citizens boycotting seems appropriate and effective; students at Boston's Northeastern University convinced the school to drop plans to bring in a franchise after demonstrating against the idea.

What about issues of religious convictions influencing business? Certainly the owner of a private company has a right to believe what he wishes, but what if those beliefs begin to infiltrate the workplace? Cathy said that the nation is inviting the wrath of God upon itself by legalizing gay-marriage. Is it hard to believe that he would discriminate against gay employees? Would those who support Cathy’s views on marriage support him if he said he didn’t feel comfortable paying gays and lesbians? Surely in a diverse society such as ours individuals must have some protections from the beliefs of others, especially in the workplace.

Whatever your views on gay rights and same-sex marriage, society is moving toward acceptance and recognition of gay individuals, even if the march feels slow and arduous to some (or rapid and scary to others). Increasingly, those who espouse anti-gay statements, bolstered by religious belief, will feel isolated and outside the mainstream. That may be fine, as most people don’t have much sympathy for those who long for segregation or exclusively male voting rights. But their rights to say such things, and to lose money in the process, is theirs to exercise freely. And it’s the right of those who reject such ideas to spend their money elsewhere, preferably somewhere with healthier fare and ideas.


J Cosgrove | 8/1/2012 - 9:59am
Today has been declared Chick-fel-A Appreciation Day as supporters have declared they will patronize the restaurant.  I am not sure how it will go but they certainly have gotten a lot of publicity.
Tim O'Leary | 7/30/2012 - 6:13pm
Amy #35
I agree very much with your general complaint and especially your fourth paragraph, in that our disputes often seem to be about seemingly banal and crass issues. This is especially so when it gets to politics and left/right stances and inconsistencies. However, I think the reason we need to take stands on this mundane level is that, despite our yearning for a nobler, higher and more sacred life, we actually live in the fallen world, with all its murky, ignorant and ugly parts (think of your recent description of the congregation you attend so you can still be present with the Real Presence). We are necessarily imbedded in that world though we hunger for heaven. And God came to our ugly sinful world to bring us there. And the Catholic Church lives among the huddled masses to bring His Real Presence into our spiritual and cultural poverty.

On the topic of this post, I think that beneath the cheap fast food chicken story is something very noble - a Christian who lives his beliefs, and stands for them, come what may. He referred to his family values in a very positive way and the secular/gay thought police turned his personal stance into a much more crass and ignoble political fight, threatening his rights like some organized criminal bosses. And for us to defend the ''free exercise'' of religion that is in our first amendment (and even more deeply in our spiritual nature), even if we do it with lowly means, is also a noble thing.

Ross Douthat had an article in today NYT about this freedom and Cathy's stance. He had a great point that the secularists give lip service to the idea of religious freedom but would be more honest stating their true desire to reduce religious exercise to worship. He said the following:

It may seem strange that anyone could look around the pornography-saturated, fertility-challenged, family-breakdown-plagued West and see a society menaced by a repressive puritanism. But it’s clear that this perspective is widely and sincerely held. It would be refreshing, though, if it were expressed honestly, without the “of course we respect religious freedom” facade.

If you want to fine Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching, or prevent Jewish parents from circumcising their sons, or ban Chick-fil-A in Boston, then don’t tell religious people that you respect our freedoms. Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.”
Amy Ho-Ohn | 7/30/2012 - 9:03am
Self-described "social conservatives" who join battle by eating fast food are falling into a trap. They think they are disputing the question, but they are really conceding the meta-question.

The meta-question is: Is there anything such as the sacred marital act? Does there exist a way of using human sexuality to ennoble and to become a participatant in the Creation? Or is all copulation just banal, meaningless, dirty "sex," mere satisfaction of physical appetite, in which the other person or persons are simply animate sex-toys?

If you believe that the discussion is about something as fundamental and essential as whether human sexuality is capable of transcendental meaning, you wouldn't use something as stinky and crass as fast food as a proxy for your argument in favor of it. When the question is reduced to political partisans grinning and guffawing over chicken sandwiches, the nihilists have won.

The gay agenda or, more broadly, the secular agenda is to deny that human life is capable of higher meaning; to play every tragedy as a satirical farce and deny it can be played any differently; to ridicule and scorn everything people believe in or revere: to deliberately confuse patriotism with self-interest, love with "sex," art with "camp," liturgy with show business, intellect with snide, dismissive deconstruction. The small, shriveled, stunted modernistic sensibililty hates and envies the suggestion that Man is capable of communion with God.

You won't see Pope Benedict posing for cameras eating Chick-Fil-A. Dolan, maybe; Benedict, never.
Melody Evans | 7/29/2012 - 7:18pm
Wow.  Due to the feedback on this blog, I am thinking of a few titles for a new blog to be created by combining blogs. How about, "The Idolatry of Weapons and Corporations That Sell Fried Chicken"?  Or, "When the Righteous Attack Over Fried Chicken."  *laughing* 

I appreciated the blog by Mr O'Laughlin.  He did a good job of bringing out the issues.  As he pointed out, there IS a difference between public boycotts and politicians using their power to hurt an organization because they don't like the personal beliefs of the CEO.  Being a pacific northwesterner I don't have the opportunity to make my opinions known through a personal boycott, but I would if I could.  There is a difference between showing that you are for something or against something.  By all means, support marriage.  Be positive in that department.  But you don't need to bring someone else down in order to lift marriage up.  I'm not going to push "gay rights."  But I am definitely not for attacking gays and lesbians or picking a fight with them either.  And I am certainly not going to question someone's Catholic credentials because they attempt to have a discussion on the topic.  Yikes.
Carlos Orozco | 7/28/2012 - 1:52pm
Slap the thought police and control freaks buying the family a meal at Chick-fil-A.
J Cosgrove | 7/27/2012 - 12:32pm
A couple comments:

''It has become increasingly obvious to me that this publication is no longer committed to Christian principles''

I think a lot of people here would say ''Amen'' to that sentiment and that this cite is primarily a political site that sees where religion can fit in with its politics.

Second if Chick-fil-a is looking for a new spokesperson for the gay community they have one ready made.  See

Especially for the waffle fries.  Can't wait to find a Chick-fil-A to taste them.  They will go good with my sushi and bean sprouts.
Stanley Kopacz | 7/27/2012 - 11:33am
Looking at the advertised fare on their website, it looks like they're very committed to clogging arteries.  They could eliminate gays by giving them a special discount.  
Vince Killoran | 7/26/2012 - 10:35am
My wife, who is an atheist, calls it "Jesus chicken" and she refuses to eat there. I did use the restroom there once (they are sparkling clean).

"Dave N" is right: Chick-fil-A has the right to promote their social agenda and I have the right to organize &/or participate in a boycott against them.
Juan Lino | 7/26/2012 - 8:45pm
Amy (#3) - I like your edgy wit - probably because we share that in common (among other things).  ; )  Peace.
Jim McCrea | 7/26/2012 - 8:44pm
Carlos: there is absolutely NO guarantee that an exercise of the right to free speech will not have negative consequences.

Speak up, speak out and take your chances.

It's too late for the chickadees to pull out a wishbone and wish that things are different.  They are not.

Westboro Babtist Churrrrrrrrrch has a right to free speech, and you can see how the public reacts to them time and again.
Juan Lino | 7/26/2012 - 8:41pm
At the Salon website, there’s (IMHO) a good article (Rahm Emanuel’s dangerous free speech attack) about this particular topic - here’s the link:
Carlos Orozco | 7/26/2012 - 8:29pm
Sorry, my last comment was directed towards Rick (#19).
Carlos Orozco | 7/26/2012 - 8:28pm
Rick (#30):

Under your criteria, was the cultural transformation experienced by the sexually depravated Greco-Roman world as Christianity condemmned and gradually erased widespread evils such as homosexuality and pedophilia an unfortunate event? Is there anything in the current sexual relativism (gender ideology) that the Apostles and Fathers of the Church would consider healthy for souls?

By the way, even permissive pre-Christian societies never considered "marriage" between persons of the same sex a sane idea.
Thomas Piatak | 7/26/2012 - 6:38pm
What is being advocated in Boston and Chicago-denying Chick-Fil-A permits to do business on the basis of the religiously motivated speech of its CEO-raises very serious First Amendment concerns.

It should also be of concern to Catholics, because the position of the Chick-Fil-A CEO is substantially similar to the position of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. 
Rick Fueyo | 7/26/2012 - 6:02pm
Chick-Fil-A is caught in a cultural transformation, and that is always a difficult position. Positions that were mainstream 20 years ago are now being defined outside the mainstream.  It will only grow more difficult is this process continues, which it inevitably will. The fundamental justice of the cause of nondiscrimination is not one that can be long resisted, appropriately so. 
Robert Dean | 7/26/2012 - 5:50pm
Fellas, not to interject, but I think the subject on the table (pardon the pun) is Chick-fil-A's policies; nothing else.
Vince Killoran | 7/26/2012 - 4:57pm
The response to Nathaniel's questions (he addressed them to Dave only for some reason) is, yes, I participate in organized boycotts on a regular basis.  I consider the strategic benefits of engaging in an action and discern which companies & products to boycott based on the context of each issue/cause (i.e., likelihood of success, larger political direction of the cause).  The key thing is to inform the company as to why you will no longer purchase their product.

Why is this so upsetting to some people?  Tne boycott is an effective and legitimate form of protest. It's American as childhood obesity and reality t.v. shows. Remember the Boston Tea Party? the Montgomery Bus Boycott? the United Farm Workers table grapes boycott of the 1970s, etc. 

Do you refuse any & all boycotts Nathaniel?  
Nathaniel Campbell | 7/26/2012 - 4:25pm
@Dave N: Does that mean that you also boycott any company that financially supports lobbying efforts promoting abortion?  After all, abortion hurts unborn children - or do you not care about unborn children?

Yes, I know - that line is on the rhetorically glib side; the vast majority of women who get abortions do not take that decision at all lightly, and there are a variety of very complex factors that go into that.  On the other hand, as other commenters have pointed out, America is a Catholic magazine, which means that one could expect Catholic teachings to at least be taken seriously here.  You know, the Catholic teachings that say abortion and homosexual acts are sins?

Do you boycott companies who use exploitative labor practices? (Do you own any Apple products? Have you ever shopped at Wal-Mart?)  Do you bank with a company that that has greedily exploited the housing market, to the detriment of millions?
OldDave NJ | 7/26/2012 - 4:11pm
@Nathaniel Campbell - what does any of that have to do with the fact that Chick-fil-A financially supports lobbying efforts in favor of laws that hurt same-gender couples and their families??  I don't care how wonderful their food and their service is.  I'm not about to patronize a restaurant where I know part of the money I pay goes to harm people I care about.
Nathaniel Campbell | 7/26/2012 - 3:42pm
It seems obvious to me that most of the commenters here have never actually been to a Chick-Fil-A restaurant (not surprising if you live in the Northeast, as it is a southern chain and has only slowly expanded north).  If you had, you would have experienced the best customer service of any fastfood restaurant out there.  The staff are uniformily kind and considerate, brimming with Please's and Thank You's.  After you place your order, you are free to take a seat - they will bring your order to your table.  They also bus tables afterwards and freely offer to refill your drink for you.  Furthermore, this extremely high level of customer service is consistent across the company.

And yes, they are closed on Sundays - which means that they are a company that puts their committment to preserving the family life of their employees above the profits they might make.

In other words, if you actually visited the restaurant instead of relying on Internet rhetoric, you would find that kindness and compassion are at the heart of Chick-Fil-A's business philosophy.
Carlos Orozco | 7/26/2012 - 3:39pm
America as a "Catholic" magazine could, at the very least, be equally suspicious of trendy mega corporations such as Apple and Google ("Legalize Love" campaign) that support the international gay agenda, as it is with a small fast food chain that dares defend marriage as defined by Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:4-6). 
Robert Dean | 7/26/2012 - 11:47am
Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems obvious to me that Chick-fil-A's policies harm people. I can't imagine why I'd knowingly patronize their restaurant and, thereby, contribute to their bigotry.
Tim O'Leary | 8/2/2012 - 6:08pm
Amazing day of support for free speech and freedom of religion. The good people ''occupied'' Chick-fil-a to show appreciation and the result was record sales. I didn't get there myself but this is heartening and a good sign that there will be strong support for religious freedom and our constitution this fall. Here are 2 links:
OldDave NJ | 7/26/2012 - 11:39am
@Jim Belna - again, there is a difference between supporting the traditional, Catholic definition of marriage, and supporting efforts that harm same-gender couples and their families.  Financially supporting laws that deprive same-gender couples of things like social-security survivor benefits, tax advantages enjoyed by married straight couples, and spousal health benefits through one's employer is hardly a benign way of supporting traditional marriage.  It may not be hate, but from the viewpoint of those being hurt, it sure looks more like hate than compassion.
ron chandonia | 8/1/2012 - 8:49pm
The Cathy family are neighbors down here in Georgia, and they are very good neighbors indeed: good to their employees, first of all, which makes their restaurants a pleasure to visit; but also good to the community, particularly in their longstanding work to improve the lot of children in foster care.  They have made a deep and personal commitment to this work, and I have personally witnessed the beneficial effect of their care for children in distress.

It is not just inaccurate but libelous to repeat the claim that their support for groups opposing same-sex marriage is harmful to gay people ''and their families.''  This assumes that so-called ''gay marriage'' is somehow GOOD for gay people and the children they bring into their relationships, too many of them via the Elton John method.  That this is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church appears to bother you not a whit.  After all, the crowd that reads the Times and does brunch rather than mass on Sunday mornings-and would never lift a finger to help a needy kid-is on your team.  Shame on you.
james belna | 7/26/2012 - 11:26am
Dear Mr Reidy:

I am sorry if I caused offense, but the civility rules for this blog seem to be somewhat confusing.

Apparently it is perfectly fine (1) to link to a satirical article that labels someone who holds the same view on marriage as President Obama did up until six months ago a ''queer hater''; (2) to suggest, without evidence, that Mr Cathy is likely to discriminate against gay employees, simply because he agrees with the Catholic definition of traditional marriage; and (3) to allege that Mr Cathy (and all others who support traditional marriage) harbor animus towards gays, and to equate them with racists and sexists ''who long for segregation or exclusively male voting rights'', even though there is no evidence that Mr Cathy has ever made an anti-gay statement or discriminated against them in any way. 

I now understand that it was improper for me to say that I find such behavior by a contributor on a blog sponsored by the Society of Jesus to be ''outrageous''. I should have used the less inflammatory (and more accurate) term ''predictable''. Please excuse my error.
Juan Lino | 7/30/2012 - 8:05pm
Andrew Sullivan just wrote a good post about this:
Joe Kash | 7/26/2012 - 11:13am
''Is it hard to believe that he would discriminate against gay employees?'' It is patently uncharitable to even imply that Chick-Fil-A is discriminatory

Mr. Reidy, you need to scold O'loughlin for this!  But I suspect you won't because you only scold those who disagree with you.  I see comments that are insulting to my Pope and bishops and I rarely, if ever, see you take offense!
C Walter Mattingly | 7/30/2012 - 6:01am
The evidence suggests that Truet Cathy will not be very concerned about the boycott. Can you think, for example, of another fast-food restaurant that has as an article of faith closing on Sunday, losing a seventh of its business day revenue? Obviously this is a person not driven primarily by monetary greed but by concern for faith and family. As I was in the business for years, losing 12% of revenue and paying taxes, rent, utilities, and equipment costs probably costs Cathy and his company 25% of potential profits, a big price to pay for devotion to the faith. Here, faith trumps money.
The problem Cathy, and any other Christian, has in accepting homosexual marriage is the words of Jesus Christ, who so clearly defines marriage as an indivisible union between a man and a woman, not between a man and a man nor a woman and a woman. As a Christian, Cathy should attempt to honor the words of Jesus as we have received them, and going to the extreme length of closing on Sunday in an industry that rarely can afford to do so is evidence of his sincerity.
Yes, Cathy supports Christ's definition of marriage as a bond formed between a man and a woman. He's a Christian, after all, and is supposed to follow Christ's words in his actions. And that of itself makes Cathy every bit as anti-gay and homophobic as his Saviour. 
Carlos Orozco | 7/26/2012 - 10:39am
The article amazes on how the author gradually turns the victim into some sort of hate perpetrator. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Chik-fil-A is CLEARLY being attacked by gay-agenda politicians that act as little tyrants. The mayor of Chicago, former Chief of Staff of the Hope and Change Administration is also joining the attacks on the chicken restaurant chain. The First Amendment and freedom of speech? Freedom of enterprise? Forget about it!!!

I hope that in the future America magazine starts covering REAL ISSUES. For example, the mainstream media practically ignored yesterday's bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives that overwhelmingly (327 - 98) supported a bill that calls for a COMPLETE AUDIT of the quasi-secretive and privately-owned Federal Reserve, that functions as the central bank of the United States (and charges interest for every dollar created out of thin air). The mentioned banking cartel issued 15 Trillion dollars ($15,000,000,000,000) within and outside the US to save bankster buddies, while millions of people lost their jobs and homes. I don't think it is too much to ask from a Jesuit magazine.
J Cosgrove | 7/29/2012 - 11:16am
''step up to the counter and enjoy a free order of waffle fries or a slice of lime pie.''

Sounds like a winner to me.  Now the problem is finding one.  There is only one in NY and it is at NYU.  We are going to the Jersey shore in another week and there is one in Egg Harbor which is about a half hour from where we will be.  Maybe I will take the family out for a Chick-fil-A dinner to celebrate their support of marriage. 
J Cosgrove | 7/26/2012 - 9:24am
Here is the website

Looks like any other fast food place except it all chicken all the time except for the salads which means it is little bit less red meat in the diet.

I cannot support them locally because the nearest one is 25 miles away but if I pass one on the road, I will make sure I stop and taste their delights.  I found that two of the closer ones are at universities.  Is it a conspiracy that they are undermining the brightest of our youth.  They do have a funny TV campaign which is how I first became aware of them.  National Cow appreciation day is now part of the culture or should I say cuisine.
Vince Killoran | 7/28/2012 - 5:04pm
I mentioned D.C. only because there is some debate about allowing them to open more outlets there.

Maria-step up to the counter and enjoy a free order of waffle fries or a slice of lime pie.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 7/26/2012 - 5:38am
Chick-Fil-A? Do you know anybody who eats at Chick-Fil-A? The only time in my life I ever saw one was when I was in Kileen, Texas, which is definitely one of the most god-forsaken turd-holes on the planet. Is it even legal to call that grease-covered, mouse-carcass-fed, cage-raised sack of artificial hormones chicken?

I'm not much of a fan of the "gay rights" movement, but I'd say, if the religious right weirdos want to poison each other, heck, let them do it. Every time I hear some monstrously obese Beavis-and-Butthead generation priest going on about how happy he is the LCWR will soon be dead, I laugh: your average 70-year-old organic-vegetable-cooking nun has twice the life expectancy of the Chick-Fil-A-eating 45-year-old "springtime in the Church."

Vince Killoran | 7/28/2012 - 12:06pm
From an article in this morning's news: Chick-fil-A has only one restaurant in the District of Columbia. . . and it's on the Catholic University of America campus.

Wow, that's a surprise!
OldDave NJ | 7/26/2012 - 4:00am
@Jim Belna - the issue with Chick-fil-A is not that they support the traditional family.  It is that they use proceeds from food sales to finance efforts that hurt same-gender couples and their families.  It really should come as no surprise that folks who aren't into hurting same-gender couples and their families would want to avoid contributing to Chick-fil-A's efforts.
Carolyn Hyppolite | 7/27/2012 - 11:07am
Mr. Belna, Thank you for your faithful comments. I am pretty disgusted that America has nothing but criticism for a company so committed to God's revelation. Whether it is taking time off on the Lord's day or supporting God's definition of marriage, this is a company willing to risk it for the Lord. I make sure to eat there everytime I am in Atlanta.

It has become increasingly obvious to me that this publication is no longer committed to Christian principles and so I will take the comment to Mr. Belna as a sign that I too no longer need to spend my valuable time reading this blog.

Peace in Christ to all,
james belna | 7/26/2012 - 2:18am
This is outrageous. I don't know if Mr O'Loughlin is being intentionally deceitful or is merely too lazy to actually read the material that he linked to, but I invite the rest of you to follow the links in the article back to the interview that sparked this boycott ( When you do, you will see that Mr Cathy said absolutely nothing that was disparaging to gays, nor did he even mention same-sex marriage. He plead ''guilty as charged'' to being supportive of the traditional family - which is, by the way, the formal and unalterable teaching of the Catholic Church. At America Magazine, that is enough to get you labeled as anti-gay, and the moral equivalent of a racist - not to mention the target of a false and baseless accusation of discrimination against gay employees.

The only honest observation that Mr O'Loughlin made in his entire post is that ''it’s the right of those who reject such ideas to spend their money elsewhere, preferably somewhere with healthier fare and ideas.'' America Magazine has lost its way, and readers ought to move on to other, less compromised journals of opinion.