Reactions to the Chick-fil-A debate


Photo credit: Jace Akagi-Okuma

Photo by Jace Akagi-Okuma

After attending last Wednesday night’s Chick-fil-A discussion, I was thoroughly unimpressed by the level of intellectual discourse. I interpreted every argument that I heard in favor of its removal as based on false premises. The room was dominated by voices that have swallowed the progressive narrative on Chick-fil-A’s stances — hook, line and sinker — making it seem more like a chance for members of Trinity’s liberal cliques to posture in front of their friends, peers and faculty members.

The discussion lacked nuance, and the arguments were circular and self-referential.
The first few speakers made comments that I interpreted as hostile. I remember one student stating that she wanted to see in person who was spreading “hate and bigotry” on online platforms. This had the effect of intimidating any student who questioned the basic assertions of the Chick-fil-A opposition: that Chick-fil-A is a hateful organization that exists to fund hateful groups. Saying that you want to see the faces of hate, so you can know who on campus has those opinions (to paraphrase the speaker) is a veiled way to silence any opposition who thought they were walking into a good-faith argument. “Go ahead and say something good about Chick-fil-A and watch what happens. I dare you.”

The conversation quickly turned to a one-sided airing of grievances. It was never allowed to become a dialogue, and so students ended up taking turns giving their sermon on why Chick-fil-A is bad and how we should listen to our consciences instead of our taste for chicken. Cue finger snaps. Very few people felt comfortable questioning the claim that Chick-fil-A is hateful or that it continues to support anti-LGBTQ+ causes. Both of these are demonstrably false premises.

Here are the facts:
In 2012, during the heart of the same sex marriage debate, Chick-fil-A came out against it. Both its management and charitable giving reflected that Chick-fil-A opposed this fundamental change in how Americans view marriage. While history has shown that Dan Cathy’s opinion on gay marriage does not reflect that of most Americans today , this shift in public opinion had not yet occurred at the time of his expressed sentiments. A 2015 article by Samantha Allen demonstrates some of the opinions on the left in favor of Chick-fil-A, back when the establishment was donating to significantly more politically charged organizations.

Chick-fil-A has since acknowledged that their charitable giving has caused controversy and stopped donating to the most controversial organizations (Family Research Council, Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, etc) in 2014.

The three remaining “anti-LGBTQ+” organizations receiving Chick-fil-A funds that Think Progress was able to dredge up were:

Salvation Army: Founded in England in 1865. One of the world’s most famous Christian charities. Has a section on their website highlighting their work with the LGBTQ+ community.

For an organization that supposedly “spreads hate for gay people,” they do a lot of charitable work with that community. While the Salvation Army doesn’t refuse trans people service, they do follow common sense guidelines in housing based on the personal safety and comfort of every person, and this has led to recent criticism. Conflating the homosexual and transgender lobbies has been criticized from both the left and right, and that discussion is beyond the scope of this editorial. However, as a private organization the Salvation Army retains the right to provide services in the most logical way, working towards the best outcomes for the largest number of people. What it is not is an organization that hates or threatens anyone, and to argue otherwise demonstrates ignorance.

Fellowship of Christian Athletes: Trinity has a chapter. They are an organization dedicated to religious formation for students and young people. They are against any kind of sex outside marriage, not just gay sex. They continue to state that they believe marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.

Paul Anderson Youth Home: While Think Progress was able to find some anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric related to Paul Anderson Youth Home, this does not exist on its current website. It should also be noted that Chick-fil-A donated $5,000 to this cause, a pittance for a multinational corporation. Based on its current marketing, it is a place dedicated to bettering people’s lives, and “curing” homosexuality doesn’t appear to be its current purpose. The copy on this camp’s website hadn’t been completely scrubbed by 2017, the time of Chick-fil-A’s final donation, after which they announced that they wouldn’t continue donating. The archive of that website is the “smoking gun” tying Chick-fil-A to a “hate group.”

All of these organizations subscribe to a form of Christianity that many Americans agree with. This Christianity has lots of historic scandals and flaws, but is the same Christianity practiced by the vast majority of Americans since the start of this country. That doesn’t mean it’s 100% right about everything, but it does mean that it reflects the values of a huge chunk of our population.

Each of these Christian organizations’ publicly professed stances on same-sex marriage have softened (to varying degrees) to reflect those of society, and are not at the core of any of their missions. If Chick-fil-A has not thoroughly renounced their stance on gay marriage, it is because their ownership wants to remain strong in their own conscientious convictions, and not out of hate for any specific group of people. Individuals in this country are allowed to retain their own personal opinions, and there is no corporate policy of Chick-fil-A encouraging either the dehumanization or death of LGBTQ+ people.

Students requesting the removal of Chick-fil-A claim that Chick-fil-A’s existence on campus dehumanizes them and puts their lives at risk. This argument fails because it doesn’t have any basis in fact. Chick-fil-A is one of the most popular options in Revolve, and it’s only on campus twice a month. Students of Trinity have made it clear with their dollars that they’re willing to wait in line for this food, and trying to revoke a multi-year contract with a well established fast food vendor on these tenuous grounds is a recipe for lots of bad publicity for this school.

The facts are that Chick-fil-A hires LGBTQ+ people, stopped donating money to the most overt political causes and remains a Christian organization. If Trinity University removes a Christian business for the act of continuing to contribute to Christian charities, it will reflect poorly on the school as a place of open ideological dialogue. Christians represent a large portion of the country, and their fear of rapid social change is being proven warranted. Which corporation will become the next thought-criminal?