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Town officials want to ban Chick-fil-A from NJ highway rest stop, citing CEO's views on marriage

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Drink and sandwich containers are seen on a customer’s table during the grand opening of a Chick-fil-A freestanding franchise restaurant in Midtown, New York October 3, 2015. |

Local officials in New Jersey are speaking out against a proposal to build a Chick-fil-A restaurant on the Garden State Parkway, alleging that the CEO's views on LGBT issues make it unworthy for placement along a taxpayer-funded highway.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority announced earlier this month that the main building at the Brookdale South service area in Bloomfield, one of several service plazas along the Garden State Parkway, will be demolished and replaced with a new building. 

The new building will house a “Chick-fil-A, Burger King, Starbucks and a convenience store.”

Construction is scheduled for completion in 2023, and an agreement with Iris Buyer LLC to replace the building at the service plaza was approved by the NJTA Board of Commissioners in October.

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s 2012 comments in opposition to same-sex marriage and the Chick-fil-A Foundation's past donations to organizations that support traditional marriage have made the fast-food chain an object of scorn among LGBT activists and liberal leaders over the years.

The proposed plans for the Bloomfield Chick-fil-A received pushback from Bloomfield officials, one of whom shared his opposition with local news outlet News12. 

“I just can’t feel comfortable eating … giving money to somebody who’s opposing my rights,” said Bloomfield City Councilman Rich Rockwell, an openly gay Democrat. “For that to be on a publicly-funded state agency highway, that seems inappropriate to me.”

Rockwell shared his belief that by approving the construction of a Chick-fil-A, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority is abandoning its “core value of diversity.”

Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia, also a Democrat, shares Rockwell’s opposition to Chick-fil-A in the planned service plaza, saying in a statement that the announcement from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority “is incredibly disappointing.” 

“Bloomfield is a diverse community accepting of all races, religions and sexual orientations, which is the antithesis of what this chain stands for,” he added.

"I implore the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to reconsider this decision and to instead choose a restaurant that is more in line with our values.”

According to Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, which keeps track of presidential election results down to the municipality level in some states, Bloomfield is overwhelmingly Democratic.

President Joe Biden received 71.8% of Bloomfield Township’s votes in the 2020 presidential election compared to the 26.6% former President Donald Trump received.

A change.org petition implores the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to prevent Chick-fil-A from coming to Bloomfield.

The petition argues that “Chick-fil-A has a history of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and this establishment should not be in a diverse town like Bloomfield, New Jersey.” 

Similar accusations have been thrown at Chick-fil-A over the years, and other local governments have tried to prevent the chain from coming to their municipalities. But Chic-fil-A maintains that it doesn’t discriminate and has “no social or political stance.”

The outcry from LGBT activists and liberal politicians surrounding Chick-fil-A dates back to 2012 when CEO Dan Cathy expressed opposition to same-sex marriage during an appearance on a radio show.

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” Cathy proclaimed at the time.

“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. … We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.”

Cathy’s remarks, combined with the donations from the company’s charity arm to organizations that support traditional marriage and oppose same-sex marriage, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, inspired efforts to keep Chick-fil-A out of some major cities like Denver as well as airports and institutions of higher education. 

As recently as 2019, Chick-fil-A leadership has defended its donations to organizations derided by critics as “anti-LGBTQ,” stating that they will pursue all business relationships as long as they are “impactful” and “authentic.”

That same year, Chick-fil-A faced criticism from conservatives after the Chick-fil-A Foundation ceased donations to the Salvation Army, the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Georgia and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

While the chicken sandwich chain insisted that it was halting contributions to the organizations as part of a broader change to its philanthropic structure, some social conservatives expressed concern that Chick-fil-A was stopping the donations to appease its critics. 

An additional source of criticism from conservatives, who rallied around the fast-food giant after it became the target of boycotts from LGBT activists, stems from the Chick-fil-A Foundation’s donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017. The Southern Poverty Law Center has come under fire for referring to organizations whose policies it disagrees with, including several faith-based companies that oppose abortion and same-sex marriage, as “hate groups.” 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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