Wednesday, July 25, 2012
My first time eating at a Chick-fil-A was back in the mid-90s when the chain opened a restaurant on the Harvard campus. (I'm guessing that wouldn't happen today.) I'm not willing to drive far enough to eat at one on August 1 in support of Mike Huckabee's "Chick-fil-A Day," but I do support the sentiment. It's OK for business owners and executives to have different views on a whole range of issues, including marriage, and for those views to be reflected in a company's marketplace identity. Let's not exaggerate the marketplace identity that Chick-fil-A is trying to cultivate, though.
Even Dana Milbank, while trying to take an "above the fray" tone in this op-ed for the Washington Post, gets it wrong. Milbank quotes from the controversial interview that the restaurant's president, Dan Cathy, gave to the Baptist Recorder. Cathy said:
“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.”
According to Milbank, "this implied that gay people (not to mention divorced people) had no business eating at Chick-fil-A."
Wait a second. How does expressing support for the traditional family imply that members of non-traditional families have no business doing business with Chick-fil-A? The very next sentence from Cathy, omitted by Milbank, was "We give God thanks for that." This doesn't sound like he's about to hang an "intact first marriages only" sign on the restaurant window; it sounds like an authentic expression of values in a spirit of thanksgiving.
I'm on record as supporting a morally diverse corporate landscape, and this is a great example of that. There is a price to pay, of course, and Chick-fil-A has to count the cost. (Some of the costs now being inflicted on the company can only be described as both absurd and ominous.) If folks want to boycott the restaurant, that's fine and in keeping with a time-honored American tradition. But let's not pretend that Chick-fil-A is out to divide and demonize its customers.
UPDATE: The folks at Get Religion weigh in on the media coverage.