Amid mounting pressure from gay rights supporters, fast food franchise Chick-fil-A released Saturday a statement pledging not to champion any political agendas surrounding marriage or family.
In a customer letter released over the weekend, Chick-fil-A President Dan T. Cathy reaffirmed the company’s Christian values but denied allegations that it required franchises and program recipients to embrace similar beliefs.
To prove this point, he announced the company would not publicly endorse agendas on marriage or family. However, he said it would continue to give resources to programs that strengthen marriages and families.
“We will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family,” the letter stated.
The statements are possibly the last response in a nearly month-long back and forth verbal battle between the Georgia-based company and gay rights advocates over supposed support for the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
After the PFI, an advocate of traditional marriage, solicited food donations from two local Chick-fil-A restaurants for a marriage seminar, lesbian gay bisexual transgender websites began questioning connections between the corporation and the anti-gay marriage movement.
The LGBT blog Good As You commented in early January, "Bottom line: If you're binding your cash with this fast food restaurant's fowl, you're in some way giving resources to those who hope to foul Keystone State gays' marriage plans. Plan your fried carnivorousness accordingly."
A petition has since been launched on Change.org. Plans to boycott the chain have reached the Chick-fil-A Facebook page. On the company’s discussion board, a poster wrote, “I'm pledging to boycott my beloved Chick-fil-A until they stop fighting gay marriage. ‘Christian’ does not have to equal ‘bigoted.’”
The restaurateur responded with a video clarifying its relationship with PFI. “Providing food to this event or any event is not an endorsement of the mission, political stance or motives of this or any other organization,” Cathy said.
But Cathy also maintained his support of marriage between a man and a woman. “Marriage has long been a focus of Chick-fil-A, starting with my own mom and dad who are celebrating their 63rd year of marriage,” he shared.
Still, media outlets continued to question the company’s practices and non-profit efforts. A New York Times article alleged that the company “require[s] potential operators to discuss their marital status and civic and church involvement.”
GAY (Good As You) blog also posted emails between an unidentified individual and Chik-fil-A founder Samuel Truett Cathy’s WinShape Foundation in which a spokesperson shared, “WinShape Retreat defines marriage from the biblical standard as being between one man and one woman.”
In the younger Cathy’s Saturday statement, he addressed “misleading stories” by clarifying, “We have no agenda against anyone.” He said that the company affirms its Christian values by serving everyone regardless of their beliefs and opinions.
Despite the company’s decision to remove itself from family politics, Cathy maintains his belief in the “biblical definition of marriage.”
The Cathys' are self-professed Southern Baptists. The older Cathy, S. Truett, began Chick-fil-A in 1946. Son Dan Cathy took over as president in 2001. He has long asserted a heavy reliance on his faith as a Christian in his business practices.
Correction: Monday, January 31, 2011:
An article on Monday, January 31, 2011, about a Chick-fil-A statement in which the company pledges not to champion any political agendas surrounding marriage or family incorrectly stated that the blog acronym GAY stands for Gay As You. The acronym GAY stands for Good As You.