One of the school principals where I live ends the morning announcements with this: "Make it a great day, or not. The choice is yours."
I like that quote, so I will borrow a tweaked version for my advice today: "Eat more chicken, or not. The choice is yours."
I am referring to the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-a, which has risen to the point that several Arkansas legislators proudly announced a few days ago that they were dining on chicken sandwiches. By doing so, they said they were "supporting free speech and opposing the thought police."
Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-a, has never made it a secret that he is a Christian, who applies his values in his business. Anyone who has ever pulled into his restaurant and found it closed on a Sunday or who has heard the Christian music playing in the background while dining on chicken nuggets is aware of that. Cathy also applies his values by giving back to the communities where his stores are located by helping provide scholarships to employees and assisting with foster programs, among other things.
But controversy erupted last week after some remarks made by Truett’s son, Dan Cathy, the company’s CEO. In an interview with Baptist Press, Cathy said he was "guilty as charged" when asked about his support of traditional marriage.
"We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that," Cathy was quoted as saying.
The comments circulated quickly through various media sources unsympathetic to Cathy’s point of view. The Cathy family was quickly branded as anti-gay, which escalated to being called discriminatory for publicly stating a viewpoint. The comments were fuel for the fire from those on the left, who had criticized the Cathy family for its support of social conservative groups such as the American Family Association.
The reaction was way over the top. Several mayors, including the ones in Boston and Chicago, said Chick-fil-a stores were not welcome in their cities. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino later backed down when he realized he couldn’t legally ban a private business.
Those claiming Chick-fil-a is discriminatory because of Cathy’s viewpoints on marriage are absurd. There has been no case I’ve heard of a customer being denied service or an employee being fired because of their sexual orientation. Despite that, the left wants to tar and feather the company because of the viewpoints on marriage of the family that founded the company – viewpoints that are shared by about 70 percent of Arkansans, including Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat.
Like-minded people have reacted by choosing to stand up for Chick-fil-a by encouraging people to eat more chicken. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has used his high profile media status to encourage people to eat at Chick-fil-a today as part of a "Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day."
The choice to eat more chicken is entirely up to you. Whether to boycott or support the company based on the founder’s political viewpoints is a choice available in a free market society. Being apathetic also is a choice afforded Americans.
In today’s world, public opinion can be swayed by rhetoric, true or not, spewed by anyone with access to the Internet. Cathy and his company do not practice discrimination. His "crime" was to publicly state an opinion that is in line with the thinking of most customers in his market, although not "politically correct."
In the end, the controversy will pass. The company will survive based not on the Cathy family’s personal views but on its ability to produce a quality product at a reasonable price in a manner that is pleasing to its customers.
So far the company has done a good job and I am sure many folks, including this writer, plan to eat more chicken.
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com