Chick-fil-A under scrutiny from students

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Brian Massie

bmassie@radford.edu

The mission of Radford University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion is to develop cultural awareness, understanding and a sense of belonging among Radford University students, faculty and staff on campus and in the community.

During the last few months, however, there has been a growing distaste for Chick-fil-A; not its product line, but its politics. Why? Chick-fil-A gives financial support to organizations that are anti-gay, including WinShape, Focus on the Family and The Ruth Institute. Over $1.1 million has been given to organizations that deliver anti-LGBT messages and promote practices like reparative therapy that seek to “free” people of being gay.

The Ruth Institute is a spinoff project of the National Organization For Marriage. It’s headed by Jennifer Roback Morse, who caught national headlines when she talked about wearing a rainbow scarf to the Proposition 8 trial as a way of reclaiming the rainbow from the gay rights movement.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes gets $240,000 a year from Chick-fil-A and requires applicants to agree with their Sexual Purity Statement, which states: “God desires His children to lead pure lives of holiness. The Bible is clear in teaching on sexual sin including sex outside of marriage and homosexual acts. Neither heterosexual sex outside of marriage nor any homosexual act constitutes an alternate lifestyle acceptable to God.”

The company’s President, Dan Cathy, said in a statement: “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’” and “To do anything different would be inconsistent with our purpose and belief in Biblical principles.”

“Chick-fil-A can sponsor who they want, it’s a free country,” said Will Kohler, administrator of a GLBT blog called back2stonewall.com. “But they shouldn’t get upset when they get found out supporting issues and ideas that discriminate against a section of their customers.”

The Chick-fil-A Facebook wall is filled with opinions from both sides. Ryan Luzzi wrote: “I used to love you guys. That is until I found out how backwards and hateful your organization is! I will NEVER EVER patronize any of your stores again!” On the other side, Thelma Jean Zeigler Waldroup wrote: “From now on my family will be eating more Chick-fil-A food” and ”If the gays don’t like it [then it’s] just too bad.”

Founded in 1946 by a Southern Baptist whose beliefs kept the doors closed on Sundays, Chick-fil-A is a family-owned business that follows the conservative Bible-based path established on day one. The firm has a number of unusual practices, including that potential employees have to disclose their marital status and talk about their religion before they can be hired.

RU’s Dining Services Resident District Manager Ben Southard says of RU’s Chick-fil-A: “They are a franchise that has been on the campus since the mid 1990s. All of the Chick-fil-A employees are our employees. We openly embrace ALL forms of diversity. We are an equal opportunity employer. We never ask any questions regarding religion, sexuality or any other types of personal data, nor do we care.”

RU’s practice of hiring individuals and then assigning them to different positions is not uncommon.  While doing so reduces the chance of direct discrimination by Chick-fil-A, there has been a backlash by students at a number of universities including Texas Tech, Duke, North Carolina State University, Florida Gulf Coast University and Indiana University-South Bend.

The issue is heating up at Florida Gulf Coast University, where a Chick-fil-A located in the Student Union is the subject of much controversy. “The Student Union is a place where all students should feel safe and welcome. By allowing a company with a history of bigotry and homophobia into our campus, we potentially allow FGCU to place monetary gain above the comfort and safety of the very students who are expected to frequent the Union Building,” states a student-led Facebook group.

A sophomore at FGCU, Rashad Davis, stated “We have the right to choose where our money is going. Giving money to an organization that supports anti-gay networks and isn’t environmentally conscious is the wrong thing to do. And the more we pay them, the bigger they grow.”

A senior at FGCU, Tyler Offerman, followed with “We don’t want Chick-fil-A on our campus because of its complete lack of environmental programs, policies, or practices.”