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Chick-fil-A ‘anti-gay’ controversy blows up: Conservatives see restaurants as part of ‘war’ against ‘gay agenda’ [video]

”In recent weeks, we have been accused of being anti-gay. We have no agenda against anyone. At the heart and soul of our company, we are a family business that serves and values all people regardless of their beliefs or opinions. We seek to treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect, and believe in the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself….

”While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees….

”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.’ As a result, we will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family. This decision has been made, and we understand the importance of it. At the same time, we will continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families.”

Dan Cathy, president and COO of Chick-fil-A, Inc. These quotes are part of a press release he’s using to respond to a growing controversy surrounding the southern fast-food chain. The perception by many on both sides of this issue is that Cathy’s corporation supports groups that have anti-gay beliefs. This latest statement appears to be the first time that the company has explicitly used the word “gay” to discuss the matter. (PRNewswire)

Chick-fil-A issued this statement after the New York Times published a piece about the company last Saturday. In the Times article, one college dean called Chick-fil-A a “faith-based business” and described Cathy’s defense of biblical marriage as “possibly the next phase of evangelical Christianity’s muscle flexing.” Some customers told the Times that they enjoyed the company’s food but did not like the idea that their purchases were supporting events that are connected to anti-gay groups like the Pennsylvania Family Institute and others. The head of PFI told the NY Times:

”I like to support businesses that stand up for good in society, and I love their food, so it’s a win-win situation.”

PFI posted a claim weeks ago that Chick-fil-A was a sponsoring a religious marriage event connected to PFI and another anti-gay marriage entity called FamilyLife. That claim of sponsorship soon disappeared after a gay blog, GoodAsYou, pointed out PFI’s history of opposing gay rights. Further investigation by G.A.Y. has allegedly revealed more questionable affiliations. Mr. Cathy and Chick-fil-A have replied that the food donation in question was a decision made by a local franchise operator in Pennsylvania, and not a corporate endorsement. That explanation has not stop questions from coming.

On Sunday, ABC News aired a news piece about the ”Chick-fil-A vs. gay rights” debate. A few people interviewed did imply that they would not go to the chain because of the gay-related controversy. Time magazine reprinted parts of the NY Times’ article on its site Monday. And an LA Times blog pointed out that the company happily “encourages gay people to spend money” on their chicken.

Beyond reports from the mainstream press, a number of religious individuals are posting messages on boards and blogs across the internet, expressing strong support for Chick-fil-A. Some say they are doing so because they also believe that the company is opposed to gay people’s rights — some claiming that gay rights activists have an agenda to silence the religious rights of business owners. The Daily Mail notes that the company’s Facebook page has become a battleground of posts

Several writers have claimed that PFI/FamilyLife does not focus on anti-gay issues, but the website is full of inflammatory remarks about gay people and same-sex marriage.

A number of sources, like the Christian Broadcasting Network, have stated that the food donation has already been made to PFI’s “Art of Marriage” event, but the event is not scheduled to take place until later this month, Feb. 11, 2011. CBN also turned to Exodus International for authoritative comment. Exodus is a group that promotes the belief that individuals with homosexual orientations can “pray the gay away.” FamilyLife also promotes Exodus on its site. 

One religious entity, called the World Congress of Families, released a statement in support of Chick-fil-A’s stance as they see it. Via the Christian News Wire:

”Every year, corporate America pours hundreds of millions of dollars into organizations seeking to advance anti-child and anti-biblical messages such as same-sex marriage, coercive sexual orientation laws and forced transgender ‘special rights’ in the workplace, and it’s treated as a ‘progressive’ business practice, Jacobs observed. But let one restaurant chain support the strengthening of the institution of marriage and the natural family, and it becomes end-of-the-world news in The New York Times…. 

”Those advancing a radical homosexual agenda must not be allowed to win through intimidation. Because they fear an open debate on their agenda and discussion of the importance of natural marriage, they invariably seek to silence dissenting voices.”

Some conservatives are elevating this to a ”war” over the right of religious evangelicals to be against gay rights:

”Over the past month, several progressive activist blogs have waged an ugly war against Chick-Fil-A…. The fearsome ‘muscle-flexing’ isn’t being done by innocent job-creators selling chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. It’s being done by the hysterical bullies trying to drive them off college grounds and out of their neighborhoods in the name of ‘human rights’…. Remember: These were the same tactics the left-wing mob used in California to intimidate supporters of the Proposition 8 traditional marriage initiative.” — Michelle Malkin

”If Christians don’t aggressively fight the war against the militant homosexual onslaught of our culture, then a day will soon come when none of us, including Mr. Cathy, will be allowed to speak out with the truth, because speaking the truth will be illegal.  Don’t think for a minute that it can’t happen here.” — Gina Miller

”Chick-fil-A has used its corporate war chest to shore up support for the institution of marriage in a time of unprecedented cultural and social decline…. I was depressed to find out that Chick-fil-A has raised the white flag and will no longer cater to ‘anti-gay marriage groups.’ This is just the latest example that ‘tolerance’ is a one-way street for the Left: conservatives are expected to change their ways and resign to their inevitable defeat in the culture wars.” — William Houston

Last week, the South Bend campus of the University of Indiana suspended Chick-fil-A’s permission to sell food once a week. Many reports had surfaced that the University had banned the company over the issues related to the Pennsylvania Family Institute, but that was not the case. The South Bend Tribune reports that Chick-fil-A will be allowed back on campus. Gay-supportive students had called for an investigation. On Monday the school’s Chancellor, Una Mae Reck, said:

”I heard from many students, faculty, staff, alumni and citizens from across the area…. Chick-fil-A is an American company that has the right to provide its food and resources to any event it wants to support. The South Bend franchise, in particular, has been very supportive of IU South Bend and all of our students…. Upon review, it is clear that the local Chick-fil-A franchise providing sandwiches to the campus in no way violates the letter or spirit of [nondiscrimination and diversity] policies.” 

Conservative voices on the internet are claiming that gay activists are calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-A but their primary source seems to be A series of petitions created at the online social framework, Yet there does not seem to be any concerted effort by major gay rights groups to pursue such an action at this time. Some individuals have instead stated a wish for the company to sever any alleged ties with anti-gay marriage groups so that they can continue to eat their food. And none appear to have questioned Chick-fil-A’s right to religious freedoms.

So, do you think Mr. Cathy’s corporate response has been enough? Is this a serious issue for gay rights supporters to focus on? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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