At the invitation by Mike Huckabee on his Facebook page to his fans to “take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, August 1st,” nearly a million people responded back to him. So many responded, in fact, that his Facebook page “disappeared” for several hours before coming back online.
The controversy began when Dan Cathy, president of the fast food franchise, responded to a question about homosexuality in a small newspaper, The Baptist Press, early last month. Cathy then expanded on his remarks in an interview on The Ken Coleman Show on July 18th:
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." I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is…
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 …
We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.
He concluded by saying, “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.”
Not everyone is interested in sharing those values. First came former Obama chief of staff and now mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, who said “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment [for them], since [their store] would be empty,” and indicated support for Proco “Joe” Moreno, a Chicago alderman who threatened to keep Chick-fil-A from opening stores in the city.
Moreno was adamant:
They’d have to do a complete 180. They’d have to work with LGBT groups in terms of hiring, and there would have to be a public apology from [Cathy].
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank also wasn’t into sharing:
[Cathy’s support of traditional marriage] implied that gay people (not to mention divorced people) had no business eating at Chick-fil-A.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino joined in the chorus of those not interested in sharing Cathy’s values by threatening to keep the company from opening any franchises there “unless they open up their policies.” He added:
We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom for all people.
This was too much for Huckabee who noted on his Facebook page:
I have been incensed at the vitriolic assaults on the Chick Fil-A company because the CEO, Dan Cathy, made comments recently in which he affirmed his view that the Biblical view of marriage should be upheld.
The Cathy family, led by Chick Fil-A founder Truett Cathy, are a wonderful Christian family who are committed to operating the company with Biblical principles and whose story is the true American success story…
It's a great American story that is being smeared by vicious hate speech and intolerant bigotry from the left.
Some of the attacks on Cathy’s values and faith are more subtle, but the message is clear: Why don’t you just try to get along? Diane Brady, writing in Businessweek, tried to draw a parallel between the Marriott hotel chain, run and operated by Bill Marriott, a Mormon, and Cathy's fast food business. Marriott just can’t see what all the fuss is about: “We are an American church. We have all the American values: the values of hard work, the values of integrity, the values of fairness and respect.”
In her interview with Brady, Marriott then let slip some insight into how some of those values are little more important than others:
Our church is very much opposed to alcohol and [yet the Marriott hotel chain is] probably one of the biggest sales engines of liquor in the United States. I don’t drink. We serve a lot of liquor. You’re in business. You’ve got to make money. We have to appeal to the masses out there, no matter what their beliefs are.
Back in 2008 a coalition of Christian organizations, including Focus on the Family, met with some top Marriott people in Washington to press them to stop offering pay-per-view pornographic movies in their more than 600,000 rooms, but Marriott declined.
However, in January 2011, two weeks after Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, also a Mormon, resigned from the Marriott board of directors, the chain changed its mind. Insiders have suggested that it was a move based not on values but on expediency, as Romney had been severely criticized during his 2008 campaign for not doing more to persuade Marriott to do the right thing and drop the offensive anti-family and anti-women pornography.
The change, according to Marriott, had nothing to do with values, but was, according to the Washington Post, “based on economics and technology. More guests can access adult content cheaply on their portable devices rather than pay for premium adult channels [in their rooms.]”
The decision, however, only affects new hotels. They are planning to let their present contracts for their existing hotels to run their course without renewing them.
Contrast this with Cathy’s views on the matter of faith, values and profits: in his “Five-Step recipe for Business Success” founder Truett Cathy spelled it out in Step Number Five:
Closed on Sunday
I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to abandon my principles and priorities. One of the most visible examples of this is our decision to close on Sunday.
Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business.
Belief in “going along to get along” in today’s cultural collapse is not part of Chick-fil-A’s recipe. Instead, Huckabee is inviting his Facebook contacts to celebrate Cathy’s strong stand on eternal principles, to visit a local Chick-fil-A and “eat mor chikin.”
Business ought to be very good.
Graphic: Mike Huckabee's Chick-fil-A logo on his Facebook page