Chicken or the Gays: Make a Choice About Eating Chick-fil-AS

If they gave a Pulitzer Prize for waffling, this piece from the Washington City Paper last week might have won it. In it, food editor Chris Shott spends several hundred words pondering whether a person who is not a homophobe can in good conscience eat at Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain and purveyor of those dumbass cow ads. Chick-fil-A's nonprofit arm, the WinShape Foundation, has for years donated millions to anti-gay Christian groups like Focus on the Family, which once warned Americans, "[T]he homosexual agenda is a beast."

Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A's CEO, hasn't even made an effort to sooth his many critics. In early 2011, when it was discovered that a Chick-fil-A operator had donated free food to a conference dedicated to marriage under "God's design," Cathy responded by offering this paradox: "[W]e 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."

Do you have any idea what that means? I don't. Regardless, Shott concludes that a progressive person can indeed eat at Chick-fil-A-they just need to find an elaborate way to support gay rights, too:

I like this approach: A friend of mine, Trey Pollard, offers a clever-albeit slightly more costly-way to offset the karma of his chicken sandwich purchases. He now matches every dollar he spends on food at Chick-fil-A with an equal donation to an organization that supports gay rights, either the national Human Rights Campaign, or an outfit right in Chick-fil-A's backyard, Georgia Equality.

That's not a clever solution, though. Clever would indicate some sense of ingenuity or wit. Giving money to gay groups after giving other money to enemies of gay groups is a plain old guilt management cop-out. If you'd really like to support gays and lesbians in a world lousy with Chick-fil-As, how about this tactic instead: From now on, don't fucking eat at Chick-fil-A if you are a person who believes gays are equal to you and deserving of equal treatment under the law. No equivocating and no buying back karma with pity donations to gay-rights groups. Simply avoid the chain for as long as it upholds its homophobic ties. Full stop.

Is this really that hard to do? Is Chick-fil-A so delicious that people are willing to ignore their most cherished principles in order to eat a couple handfuls of its sodium-drenched chicken wads? I haven't eaten Chick-fil-A in about a decade, but the last time I did, I don't remember it being all that spectacular. The meat was average and the buns were soggy, soaked through with butter and brine from anemic pickle discs. It certainly wasn't good enough food to get me to forsake my belief that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry. Which is why, when I found out Chick-fil-A's Southern Baptist leaders believed otherwise, I stopped eating there and started eating at the thousands of other places that serve greasy, hastily made, inexpensive sandwiches.

I told a friend that he should boycott Chick-fil-A and he sneered. "Those guys are making billions of dollars," he said. "You think it matters to them if they don't get your and my eight bucks?" It's an interesting mentality many people have begun to adopt: Why bother fighting with the rich and powerful when, ultimately, they're going to remain rich and powerful?

For his part, Dan Cathy continues earning lots of money at Chick-fil-A, where the "Corporate Purpose" is still "to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us." And that purpose continues to partially translate to Cathy and his company putting their support and efforts behind "the Biblical definition of marriage." So important is marriage and the Sabbath to Cathy that he demands that all his restaurants close on Sundays so people can spend time with their families and God. When Cathy bows his head, I wonder if he thanks the Lord for all the liberals who will turn the other cheek and fork over millions for his wares come Monday.

A lot of people are homophobic, but not all of those people use their businesses to directly and outspokenly promote intolerance the way Chick-fil-A has. As much as you can, you should eschew known bigots' establishments if you don't agree with bigotry, even if that means swearing off the convenience of a particular brand of fast-food chicken. If you find that it's impossible to stop eating at Chick-fil-A despite your deeply rooted pro-LGBT values, perhaps those values aren't as deep-seated as you think.

Image by Jim Cooke.

Cord Jefferson is the senior editor at GOOD magazine. He doesn't even eat chicken anymore, perhaps making this all moot.