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Chick-Fil-A and Our Cultural Short-Term Memory

On March 21, Vox confirmed what most LGBT individuals already knew to be true: Yep, Chick-Fil-A is still super homophobic. What a surprise! According to Vox, “The Chick-fil-A Foundation donated more than $1.8 million to three groups with a history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in 2017,” despite claiming in 2012 that they would stop making such donations. Clearly, this is just another case of a company making a claim and then waiting for the public to forget all about it. Lucky for Chick-Fil-A, they just happen to make a chicken sandwich that makes lesser LGBT “allies” more willing to forget their contributions to hate groups. Chick-Fil-A has never actually tried to hide their fundamentalist agenda. While at first their peanut-oiled chicken patties and fresh lemonade may seem innocent enough, look closer. Specifically, the kid’s meals and origin story.

While the kid’s meals usually include edutainment toys sponsored by Brain Games and Between the Lions, they have also included the Berenstain Bears and Veggie Tales. Veggie Tales is more clear about its Christian messaging, and usually keeps to Bible stories, rather than veering to a fundamentalist agenda, but that is still an odd angle to add in toys included with meals at a chicken restaurant. Personally, I think Veggie Tales is harmless, but I also do not think it has any crossover appeal for secular children.

Berenstain Bears is more damning. Classic titles usually refrain from any explicit religious messaging, with books like “The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners” and “The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor.” But, recent works, following the passing of the torch from the original authors (Stan and Jan Berenstain) to their more religious child (Mike Berenstain) include titles like “The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers.” I have nothing against books aimed at children who are raised Christian, but a title like that hardly has a place in a chicken restaurant where the target customer is average chicken eaters, a group that doesn’t tend to have a religious affiliation.

Finally, there’s the obvious clue that Chick-Fil-A is never going to become less oddly fundamentalist. The founder, S. Truett Cathy, was a devout Southern Baptist, and the reason why the company has Christian clues tucked in every aspect of the business. For one, Chick-Fil-A is always closed on Sunday, showing a commitment to the commandment “Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy,” and proving that the company is serious about the Bible. This also implies that Chick-Fil-A wants to encourage church attendance among its employees, which is overstepping the employer-employee relationship for a simple chicken restaurant. The Cathy family is still involved with the company, despite S. Truett’s passing in 2014, and it was COO Dan Cathy that made the original statements against same-sex marriage back in 2012. As the family is still running the company, and old people are not well known for changing their bigoted opinions just because some youngsters tell them that they are bigoted, it comes as no surprise that, yes, Chick-Fil-A is still homophobic.

I do honestly think that this company could work to change that troubling reputation, and as a queer Christian woman, I feel particularly qualified to make some suggestions. First and foremost, Chick-Fil-A needs to severely reduce the role of the Cathy family in their business. Old dogs cannot learn new tricks. With that, they need to focus any charitable donations on something completely apolitical, as they are a chicken restaurant, and should not have political opinions in the first place. I suggest the ASPCA or local women’s shelters. Finally, stop being so overtly religious. I get it, religion is important to many, but it is also deeply personal. I do not want to know if the CEO of Target is a Wiccan or not, so it stands to reason that I really do not care if the CEO of Chick-Fil-A wears a crucifix. Piety was something Jesus Christ, whose name ought to be familiar to the Cathy family, was pretty against, and it got Him killed, so take note. Finally, have a vegan-vegetarian food option that is not a sad salad. Gestures like that can only help, and I do not eat chicken.

Until then, do not eat at Chick-Fil-A, at least if you actually support the LGBT community. Go to a local fried chicken joint, or learn to make your own. If you do not care for the LGBT community, continue on with your fast food choices. If the LGBT revolution does not move you, at least the heart disease eventually will.

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