Chik-fil-A is a-fixin’ to get fried for its ‘values’

Credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor Credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor
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When talking about fast food restaurants, Chick-fil-A is generally out of the main conversation, yielding to larger brand names such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King. But when talking about same-sex marriage and LGBT rights, Chick-fil-A has been front and center for the past month because of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s comments.

In response to these statements, individuals and organizations quickly took sides not just about same-sex marriage but about Cathy’s statements and the rights of companies to state their views without repercussion. One of the most common defenses of Cathy and Chick-fil-A, besides pure LGBT hatred, is the argument that companies, along with individuals, should be allowed to discuss their views without fear of criticism and consequences.

These individuals maintain that, since Chick-fil-A does not discriminate against LGBT employees and customers, the values of the company and its management are of no importance to the consumer. Unfortunately, Cathy and Chick-fil-A have chosen to display their values with more than just words.

In 2010, Chick-fil-A donated nearly $2 million to anti-LGBT groups through various foundations. By choosing to spend money and eat at Chick-fil-A, some patrons are now intentionally supporting anti-LGBT agendas. This connection brings not only the free speech of companies but also that of consumers into play.

Just as founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife gave $2.5 million to the Washington state campaign to fight for the legalization of gay marriage, more companies and CEOs are using personal and company funds to support organizations with social agendas.

While there is no legal or moral problem with this, there are still repercussions. Once companies begin bringing social and moral values to the forefront, consumers will begin to consider those in addition to the product.

Chick-fil-A, with its monetary support of hot-button social issues, has encouraged customers to take sides with their pocketbooks.

Companies and consumers each have the right to express personal beliefs through words, actions, and money. The right to free expression, however, does not include the right to be free of criticism and consequences.

Boycotts and “support days” have turned companies into polling booths, with profit as the ultimate result. Regardless of the effect on Chick-fil-A’s bottom line, this flare-up has shown the rapid publicity — both good and bad — that comes when companies jump into social issues.

With Cathy’s statements and Chick-fil-A’s donations to anti-LGBT groups, companies’ rights to moral and social stances have come to the forefront of public discussion. Consumers have just as much right to speak with their dollars as companies do, particularly when profits are being used to fund social agendas.

Bringing social values to a marketplace where a company’s success depends on consumer loyalty is a risky proposition fraught with public scrutiny and financial consequence.