Over the last month, Chick-fil-A has been branded and boycotted by gay activist groups after the family-owned restaurant announced it would donate refreshments for a conservative conference in February titled "The Art of Marriage: Getting to the Heart of God's Design" at the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
The chicken eatery is headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., and has chains located across the country, with many in the country's Bible Belt. In addition to serving up tasty fried chicken sandwiches, the company is also known for promoting Christian values. Chick-fil-A's founder, S. Truett Cathy, is a devout Christian whose religious beliefs shine through his company, which invests heavily in community service organizations. In addition, all Chick-fil-A locations are closed on Sundays.
After a number of blogs picked up on the company's "sponsorship" of the anti-gay marriage event, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy posted a video on the company's Facebook page to clarify the company's stance. “Let me be clear, Chick-Fil-A serves all people and values all people,” Cathy said.
“Providing food to these events, or any event, is not an endorsement of the mission, political stance or motives of this or any other organization. Any suggestion otherwise is just inaccurate,” he added.
Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, echoed Cathy's statement, declaring the restaurant was simply trying to be "good neighbors."
But bloggers weren't satisfied and criticized the Cathy family's business for past donations to conservative family groups which oppose gay marriage, including the National Organization for Marriage's Ruth Institute, a project whose primary purpose is to support traditional marriage.
Students and faculty at Indiana University in South Bend even petitioned the school's administration to ban the restaurant and actually succeeded in getting the chain suspended from campus while the school took "time to properly review the issue."
The recent controversy is not the company's first. A Muslim franchise owner-in-training previously sued and settled out of court, accusing the company of firing him for abstaining from a Christian prayer during a work training event. Publicly, the company denied the allegations.
Additionally, Lake Lambert, author of the book Spirituality Inc., warns that the past month's uproar will not be the company's last. “If you have a faith-based corporate identity and you want to function in the national marketplace, you’re going to continue to encounter resistance to those values because not everybody is going to share them,” Lambert told CNN. “The only other option is some sort of secular identity and that’s not where Chick-fil-A is going.”
In light of recent protests, the restaurant chain announced it was withdrawing support for so-called "anti-gay" groups.
“In recent weeks, we have been accused of being anti-gay,” Dan Cathy said in a written statement last Saturday. “We have no agenda against anyone.”
“While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage,” the statement continued, “we love and respect anyone who disagrees.”
But don't think withdrawing financial support from conservative religious organizations means the Cathy family is letting business interest distract them from their faith.
"Chick-fil-A's Corporate Purpose is '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,'" Dan Cathy added this week.
"As a result, we will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family. This decision has been made, and we understand the importance of it. At the same time, we will continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families. To do anything different would be inconsistent with our purpose and belief in Biblical principles."