The fast food industry has been politicized in ways you wouldn’t have imagined, but if you’ve been keeping up with the flak on Chik-fil-A, then you already know that the recent controversy isn’t over the chicken. It’s over homophobia.
Last month, Jim Henson Co., the company behind The Muppets and other iconic puppets, canceled its partnership with Chik-fil-A after the president of the fast food joint acknowledged that it had been endorsing anti-gay organizations. In response to the revelation, Lisa Henson, CEO of the Muppets company, ordered all payments from the former Chik-fil-A partnership to be donated to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. The move sparked a renewed debate over First Amendment rights and gay marriage that has raged for weeks. Chik-fil-A has since issued a recall on its Muppet toys, citing potential safety hazards to children. A spokesperson for the company has assured that the decision was issued for the “protection of [our] customers” and was enacted indepedently of the split with Jim Henson Co. To cover for the loss, a pre-arrangement with HarperCollins, the publishing company for the Berenstain Bears series of books, has been set to fill in for the food joint’s toys during the month of August. However, a post on the Berenstain family’s website indicates resentment on the matter, and was accompanied for a short time by an unauthorized statement, according to HarperCollins, stating, “We have a long history of diversity and inclusiveness and are very disappointed to hear recent statements made by Chick-fil-A. After much consideration, we have decided to honor our previous arrangement, with the chain. We have no plans to work with them in the future.”
Former Governors Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee both demonstrated support for the chain after posting comments on Facebook praising the business and denouncing liberals for deeming it acceptable to support same-sex marriage, but immoral to believe in Christian values. Patrons of Chik-fil-A followed through on August 1st by ceremonially attending the joint by the masses to demonstrate their own support for the fast food chain. Opponents of the business have identically organized to protest before each of its franchises.
To the non-partisan reader, it should be astonishing that so much debate and activism can be generated from the likes of a single comment. And while we here at The Politikon Review encourage discussion to resolve problems at the forefront of every matter, the current controversy regarding Chik-fil-A is ridiculous. Besides, it’s just bad business. The unfortunate reality for those supporting the establishment’s Christian values is that there are better ways to demonstrate good faith than just attending a fast food joint en masse. From an observer’s perspective, the Bible allegedly preaches charity in the form of helping others and donating to the poor. But if this is true, then where are all the good Christians flocking to help the homeless shelters and organizing drives to give to the needy? The hypocrisy of the Chik-fil-A debate is easily characterized by the side we see the people support; opponents of the business’ anti-gay and homophobic comments have every right to protest and boycott the chicken house (no pun intended) because that’s what would be expected from any successful civil rights movement. However, there is no excuse for the reaction seen from those whose faith dictates that the world should follow religious doctrine. Whether for lack of forethought, or simply because proponents of Chik-fil-A have no grasp on who is actually being victimized, there are no justifiable grounds for a religiously zealous flashmob to stand for a business whose comments were responsible for igniting a firestorm, but fail to stand for the wellbeing of the homeless that are simply looking to get a chicken sandwich to last them for the day
If someone was to ask how the U.S. can be so demanding internationally, but so backward domestically, then herein they’d find the answer. As Americans, we expect an international compliance with norms and rights that some of our own citizens can’t seem to respect. It is unfortunate that biggots get to call themselves proud Americans, and even more disappointing that ignorants get to voice their beliefs as if they were legitimate. But the beauty of the First Amendment is that it is absolute. The Framers of the Constitution envisioned a world where civil society could be maintained by separating the affairs of the church and the affairs of the state, but I question any faith that actively seeks to repress the social advancement of the people while preaching about the welfare of the underprivileged. In a few weeks time, all the talk concerning Chik-fil-A will be old news, and business will be back as usual in the short run. But unless there is a public apology or a new CEO, the company may have signed its own death certificate in the long run, as economics has proven time and again that discrimination is unprofitable. Admittedly, as a customer to the fast food industry, I’m not so sure I’d join the bandwagon in protesting Chik-fil-A for life, but I think it’s fair that the business has lost the potential for any future success.