Friday, August 3, 2012

Chick-fil-A: This is what it's
really about

It's been a couple of days now since the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day which was staged by Mike Huckabee, and supported by people like Rick Santorum and Sarah & Todd Palin (as well as millions of other "regular" people across the county), and while the hubbub around that day has passed, the controversy still has not, simply because people who love their "chikin' and waffle fries" just don't get what this is all about.

Let's backtrack a bit. It's been no secret that Chick-fil-A is a Christian-owned corporation. I mean, they're closed on Sunday for a reason! I used to eat at Chick-fil-A on my way to work quite often. A quick pack of nuggets was a nice snack to tide me over until dinner, and as far as I knew, the company wasn't in your face with their religion. But they became "in your face" after it was made public one store in Pennsylvania contributed food to some kind of marriage retreat. No big deal, until it was discovered that the event only included married people of opposite genders. The corporation tried to play this off as it being one store (the stores are franchised) making a donation, not something that the corporation was involved with. Except this one store opened up a whole Pandora's Box of trouble for Chick-fil-A when people started digging into the company's corporate donations (and we probably have Target and the Tom Emmer campaign donation scandal to thank for this look into CFA's donations).

What we learned – and it's taken more than a year for people to really take notice – is that Chick-fil-A, as a corporation, has donated over $5,000,000 to anti-gay organizations and causes over the past two years. Organizations like The Marriage & Family Foundation (which was founded by CFA president Dan Cathy), a foundation that urges businesses to guide America back to its core of traditional family values; The Fellowship of Christian Athletes; The National Christian Foundation, which disperses money to other groups like Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and the Discovery Institute (which opposes the teaching of evolution in schools); the New Mexico Christian Foundation (which is a smaller branch of the National Christian Foundation; the Georgia Family Council; Exodus International (the most well-known Ex-gay therapy proponents, whose president came out as gay and basically said the process doesn't work in most cases); and the Family Research Council, which has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, along with other groups like the KKK and the Aryan Nation.

Does that open your eyes a bit to what this is all about? People on the far right like Huckabee, Santorum, Palin, and everyone on Fox News wants you to think this is all about taking away Dan Cathy's freedom of speech. Yes, he said Chick-fil-A was "guilty as charged" of supporting "traditional" marriage and he has every right to do so, and if he wants to donate large sums of his own money to the groups listed above, that's his right as well. This has never been about freedom of speech, it's never been about chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, no matter what you hear from the right. This is about a corporation using profits it earns from selling those chicken sandwiches and then giving a corporate donation to those groups. Think about. It's like the Target scandal in 2010 (which most people seem to have forgotten about). Target was well-known for its strong LGBT support and policies within the company. Then it was learned that the company (as well as the CEO), along with other companies based in Minnesota like Best Buy and Red Wing Shoes, had donated large sums of money to a PAC that was funding Tom Emmer's campaign for governor. These companies said the reasons for the donations were because Emmer promised them tax breaks if he was elected, so of course they wanted to buy the election for him. They focused on that one issue, and completely over-looked everything else on his agenda (and the front page of his website), including his stance on marriage, and his ties to a "Christian" rock band that advocates violence towards gays. So Target was using profits from their sales, a lot of which came from gay shoppers, and were funding a candidate that would have happily taken away all the rights from the LGBT employees that Target stood behind 100%, as well as the LGBT population of Minnesota. Naturally, people were upset to learn that the money they spent at Target was being used in such a manner. Many people boycotted but, sadly, a lot of them have forgotten all about it and returned to shopping there … even though they claimed changes to their donation policies but still donate to anti-gay candidates and causes (while still also supporting local LGBT organizations and luring sell-outs like Ricky Martin and Barbra Streisand into exclusive distribution deals for their latest CDs – you really can't have it both ways).

So that's what this is all about. I know there are many companies across the country that donate to anti-gay causes a little less publicly than Chick-fil-A, and it's probably not possible to know each and every one of them. But when you do know about the Chick-fil-As, the Targets, and all the others, and you support the rights of gay people (some of whom may be your brother or sister, your best friend, a co-worker, or another relative), can you honestly drop a couple of bucks in those tills with a clear conscience, knowing that your money is going to fund groups and campaigns that seek to strip those you know and love of their rights? That's what this is about. It's about actually thinking about where your money is going instead of gobbling down an order of waffle fries while pretending that the money you just spent is going to buy more chicken and fries for the store to sell you on your next visit. That's what this is about. It's not silencing freedom of speech (and the right has room to talk since they're always boycotting businesses like JCPenney, Home Depot, and others … so where are their Appreciation Days from the left?), it's about taking stock of what you're doing with your money and the message you're sending to Dan Cathy and others by giving them your money. Chick-fil-A claims to have made an extra $30,000,000 in profit on Wednesday by people who were lead to believe they were standing up for some poor business owner's freedom of speech. And what do you think he's now going to do with that extra $30 mil? Think about it. Think about the truly needy organizations that could have used all that money to help people in need. Think about all those people lined up at Chick-fil-A that could have been lined up at the local blood bank, when blood donations are at an all-time low. Think about how all this time, money and energy could have been used to do good, but is now going to be put to use in various efforts to hurt people that Dan Cathy doesn't like because they don't fit within his narrow view of morality. This is not about attacking freedom of speech or Christianity (I know plenty of real Christians who are embarrassed by these people claiming to be Christians). It's about taking a stand against bigotry and hatred that's being funded by your money, whether you want it to or not. Try to remember that the next time you just have to have a serving of Chick-fil-A waffle fries. That is what all of this is about.

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