Will Chick-fil-A Pay a Price for Its Anti-Gay Marriage Stance?

"Guilty as charged." Well, he probably could have phrased it better.

Interviewed in this week's issue of Baptist Press, that's how Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy responded to an interviewer asking whether his company supported "the traditional family" (or as it's being rephrased in the press now, "opposed gay marriage"). And as you can imagine, the position has quickly generated a firestorm of criticism for the company.

Why? In the past, Chick-fil-A has tended to hedge its position on the issue rather than risk offending patrons of its 1,600 fast-food chicken restaurants. Previously, Cathy himself had always exercised caution in keeping the company he runs separate from the personal beliefs he holds "in the Biblical definition of marriage."

That's become more difficult now.

Stepping Up the Opposition

For years, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocates have criticized Chick-fil-A's practice of making donations to pro-traditional marriage organizations, calling it an attack on the LGBT community. Making the leap from what Cathy said this week to what they think he meant (although he didn't actually say that), these groups moved quickly to call for a boycott of the company.

But does a single comment by the company president necessitate a full-fledged boycott of his business?

Reasonable minds can differ, but before making up your mind about whether the world would be better off without Chick-fil-A in it, here are a few points worth considering:

Defining 'Doing God's Work'

Whatever else you think about Chick-fil-A, at least the company practices what it preaches. This is not some fast-food version of Goldman Sachs (GS), where CEO Lloyd Blankfein goes out and tells The Times of London that he's "doing God's work" on one hand, while back at headquarters, his traders are calling their clients "muppets" and hatching plans to "rip their clients' faces off."

To the contrary, Chick-fil-A has codified a corporate purpose: "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us, and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A." In many ways, it's doing just that.
  • In an industry dominated by high-caloric, deep-fried, transfat-saturated food-like substances, Chick-fil-A pioneered the sale of unfried, chargrilled chicken to promote healthy eating habits. (For breakfast, the company recently began offering the option of a nice bowl of multigrain oatmeal -- albeit much to children's chagrin.)
  • Furthering its "positive influence" philosophy, at most Chick-fil-A establishments in America, kids can take a break from their snacking to burn off some calories at the in-house jungle gym.
  • And since healthy minds go well with healthy bodies, open a Chick-fil-A kid's meal takeout bag, and what you find inside (in addition to some mighty tasty chicken) is not a plastic-molded Teenage Mutant Madagascar Giraffe with Kung-Fu Grip action figure, but more often an educational toy, CD, or even -- better sit down for this -- a book.

It's also worth noting that in an American culture that often seems to worship at the altar of the Almighty Dollar, Chick-fil-A -- almost alone among American restaurants -- takes a break from capitalism for one day every week, year in and year out. That's right: Chick-fil-A sticks to its principles and adheres to the Fourth Commandment, keeping the Sabbath, and guaranteeing all its employees their Sundays off.

Chick-fil-A: Love It or Leave It

In the final analysis, it doesn't really matter much what Chick-fil-A's president said, or didn't say.
Customers will always have every right to take their business elsewhere, for any reason, individually or in organized groups. They've got just as much right, in fact, as Chick-fil-A's Chick-in-Chief has to voice -- however intemperately -- his opinion on subjects public and private, controversial and not.

Meanwhile, the greater the brouhaha that LGBT activists raise against Cathy's statement, the more likely the boycott is to backfire ... as the company's fans flock to fill up the seats vacated by its critics. Because whatever your religious views, the 11th Commandment of American business still reads: "There's no such thing as bad publicity."

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith holds no position in any company mentioned, but he'd happily hold a No. 2 meal -- Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich with Waffle Fries and a soft drink. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Goldman Sachs Group.

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This article is misleading when it states that the boycott is happening because of the company President's stance on same-sex marriage. The boycott is happening because the company has spent millions funding organizations that attempt to criminalize same-sex relationships in the U.S. and other countries. This includes groups like the Family Research Council that support jail time for homosexuality in the U.S., and the death penalty for homosexuality in other countries. The money going into those organizations through Chik-Fil-A comes from customers purchasing their products, hence the boycott.

August 04 2012 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Definitely agree that we should eat less fast food as a country. I think the biggest reason most of us resort to fast food places like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and the likes is that we don't have time to get food anywhere else. There is a solution, though! Food Trucks! Food trucks serve better food, serve MUCH healthier food, at a cheaper price, and are just as quick getting the food to you. For those of you who have negative preconceptions of food trucks, give them a try, I bet you're pleased. Oh, and for fellow New Yorkers, check out Foodtoeat. com, NYC's new online ordering site that allows users to place orders for pick up from food trucks, saving even MORE time and saving you from standing on line! Enjoy, ladies and gentlemen, and stay away from all those nasty "burgers" and "fries."

August 01 2012 at 4:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Chick-Fil-A is the beneficiary of about 2 million dollars + worth of free advertisement, this guy is a genius he just gained the full conservative base and in time the bed wetting liberals will miss their chicken sandwich and return because their memories are about as long as their moral values.

July 31 2012 at 7:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wish I could buy shares in this company, everyone is talking about it, this stock is going gold, probably open another thousand stores with all the publicity.

July 30 2012 at 6:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Charlotte Seipel

Everyone should be able to have their opinion and preference. I think it's great that Chick Filet sticks to their principles and is not intimidated by politics. I hope they don't change a thing! I also applaud them for taking Sunday's off! The world would be a better place if we practised what we preach.

July 27 2012 at 5:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The L&G's had to add Bi's and confused to get to 5% of the population. Maybe they can add a few more groups and get to 10% like the old guy on family guy. I am sure that will add another half percent. By "thier" logic then I should fire every employee that doesn't fit my ideas. Thus, creating more hatred. Don't eat there if you must, but quit crying like little girls when you do not get your way. This is nothing new for Chic a fillet. Move along now and maybe go after Boy Scouts again or something else good.

July 25 2012 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When you deal with the public whether you or private or public you should stay out of these issues. Want to make a statement do it in a place of worship. Personally I never cared for the chain and now I will not patronize it at all.

July 25 2012 at 9:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Big deal about nothing. This corporation has a right to voice their views, and set their policies. The public has a right to patronize them, or not. On to the next non-issue. Geez!!!

July 24 2012 at 11:23 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Why is it that some folks in the gay community find it necessary to claim that anyone who does not agree with them is full of hatred for gay people? Is it an attempt to draw sympathy and strengthen their position (oh, they HATE us)? A very wrong conclusion, I assume brought on largely by the activists. I am straight, but have a number of friends, social and business relationships, that are gay. For the most part they are absolutely beautiful people, and I am honored to call them friends and associates. I just don't agree that their union should be called a marriage, and it is nothing more than that, my opinion. I certainly don't hate them because they have a different opinion, and I don't think they hate me for my opinion. Sorry but there is just too much undue name-calling in the world already.

July 24 2012 at 3:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Gays want to force themselves and their beliefs on everyone..........let them live as they want to but allow me to live as I want to......eat where you want to eat but do not attempt to force any company out of business because of their belief in God and the Bible. There will be a "reckoning time" and I trust that they will wake up before that time.

July 24 2012 at 1:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to DaltonCooper's comment

That is totally untrue. Gay people have been on this planet since the beginning of time. You dont become gay. As far as their agenda it is not to make you gay or join the ranks of gaydom. Their rights should be respected just as yours. Though I understand and respect the rights of certain religious groups not to marry them in the "traditional way" they still have the right to a marriage certificate which will afford them the same rights and protection under the law.

July 25 2012 at 9:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply