Alex Blaze

Thoughts on Chick-fil-A

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 03, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: boycott, Chick-fil-A boycott, LGBT, LGBT people, New York, New York University, pennsylvania family institute

Chick-fil-A has been in the LGBT news the past month after a franchisee sponsored a Pennsylvania Family Institute event, chicken-minis-chick-fil-a.jpgJeremy Hooper dug around and found that they also have a nonprofit that sponsors fundamentalist politics, have worked with NOM, and sponsored an organization that supports ex-gayism. After all that came out, Chick-fil-A removed their name from the PFI's announcement of the original event and put out several statements about how it's a Biblical business, but they stay out of politics (for them ex-gayism is therapy and marriage legislation is about relationships and religion, with politics probably being defined as "elections," so in their minds they're probably telling the truth).

Catching up on it last night made me want to put down some thoughts here, but I'll admit this business didn't spark my interest for a while. The reason it probably wasn't interesting is partly because I don't live within several thousand miles of a Chick-fil-A and partly because I don't eat there even when I'm in the US. But perhaps the biggest reason is that this doesn't change much anyway.

I'm of the belief that large chains and corporations should be considered guilty until proven innocent, since they're probably committing all sorts of crimes (against labor, against the environment, against their customers, against other businesses, against humanity...) without us knowing much about it. That doesn't mean that there's no such thing as a good corporation or that people should never shop at them - it just means that intense skepticism should be our neutral position.

But one sort of big business that I just won't ever take to liking is fast food. The food is produced to be as neutral as possible so that it can appeal to the widest market, to be as salty as possible so that it has a long shelf-life, as fatty or sweet as possible so that the fact that it has crappy, frozen, and cheap ingredients without flavor will be less noticed, and as overpriced as it can be while still keeping the customers coming. It's usually so unhealthy that I think it'd be more inclined to label most fast food "poison" instead of "food," so I can be forgiven if I don't share the same sort of affection for Chick-fil-A that apparently its fans do.

Chick-fil-A's classic chicken sandwich, with no sauce or butter, only has about 380 calories. That's fine so long as you don't eat much else in that meal, but chances are you're going to want something else soon. And make sure that whatever else you eat that day is high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals to make up for that Chick-fil-A.

What's disturbing is that that same sandwich gives you 54% of your sodium for a day if you're an average American following USDA recommendations, and around 86% if you were put on a 1500-mg/day diet because of high blood pressure.

Now, people who don't cook much probably don't have the same reaction to seeing that kind of sodium content in a small amount of prepared food, but if you cook you know: salt is needed to bring out flavor, but lots of salt is needed when there is no flavor. A chicken, running around until it's head gets cut off, is full of flavor (even if I don't partake I can acknowledge that much) but still needs a little salt, so what happened to that chicken that it needed to be salted so heavily? Personally, I'd love to know, but I'm going to guess that, whatever it is, the lack of flavor was supposed to be a warning to me not to eat it.

I won't get much more into the food side of this, but I will say that the issue here isn't that the folks at Chick-fil-A have a different opinion about a political matter than I do. They have a completely different way of looking at the world, complete with haves and have-nots, and the have-nots (which will never include the owners of Chick-fil-A) are supposed to be automatons who work for low wages and pay too much to eat crap, living long enough to produce children who'll do the same thing but never concerned with their own pleasure. Their Christianity is not the equalizing, self-reflexive Christianity of Jesus, but the hierarchical, judgmental, me-first Christianity of someone looking for a way to feel better about themselves.

And the fact that the people at Chick-fil-A have put so much time, energy, and money into supporting discrimination against LGBT people (and Muslims, apparently) doesn't help the restaurant's case for my money. As the foodie superstar behind The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck put it:

"It literally leaves a bad taste because I know the people who are putting this food in my mouth actively loathe me," he said. "I'm all for freedom of religion, it's just that I know where I want my money to go and I don't want my money to go."

I don't know how anyone could go to a chain fast food place and eat a meal without getting the impression that someone, for some reason, loathes them.

I wasn't raised on fast food the way a lot of other people were, and that might be part of the problem here. Sure, we went to Mickey Dee's and Wendy's with Mom when we were little, my siblings and me, but it was a treat and it was kept rare. The food's great for kids - high in fat, salt, and sugar, with a toy instead of flavor!

Other than that, I'd tell the students at NYU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Student Center that it's great that they're looking beyond marriage to understand the queer and other issues at play here, but sometimes these folks do give themselves away.

More importantly, while seeing the big picture is important, we shouldn't get into a place where we see sexual autonomy as a second-rate issue, demonization of LGBT people as not as important as the demonization of other classes of people, and not something worth organizing around.

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Inclusive Enda Now! | February 3, 2011 12:42 PM

In the name of "seeing the big picture," you have commented on boring details such as the caloric count of a chicken sandwich, but you have MISSED something hugely important to our community: Chick-Fil-A does NOT have a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. And most Chick-Fil-A stores are in the Southern states, which do not have state ENDA statutes. Pass an inclusive ENDA in the US Congress now! That's the relevant point in all of this... and yet it was missing from your long and boring post.

That said, your posts are generally good. So you get a pass this time.

I don't think that those corporate nondiscrimination policies are worth the paper they're printed on, but thanks for pointing that out.

And, come on, 1000-ish words isn't that long.

Speaking as someone who's worked in retail for most of my adult life, both pre and post-transition, I can tell you that for most of the companies I've worked for (there are exceptions) these non-discrimination policies are followed until they become inconvenient. Once a company or someone in their management decides they want to fire an LGBT employee, they'll find a way to do it by manufacturing a "valid" reason that doesn't relate to their being LGBT so they can maintain the public illusion of compliance with the policy if challenged.

Inclusive Enda Now! | February 3, 2011 1:40 PM

1,000 words is a lot if not one of those words is "ENDA." In a story like this, where you decided "to put down some thoughts here, but [you] admit this business didn't spark [your] interest for a while," your lack of even a single mention of ENDA was glaring. (You are right about the voluntary corporate non-discrimination codes ... they have no enforcement mechanisms ... they are worthless to everyone except for HRC, which can use them to troll for corporate contributions from the companies that sign them). My point is that in the next two or three years, as we push for a federal, inclusive ENDA to be passed and signed during a second Obama term in 2013, we have to keep on making the case for the ENDA statute at every opportunity. And when it comes to Chick-Fil-A, the story should be about LGBT teens in small towns in the South, for whom Chick-Fil-A would be a good job for saving for college, but the lack of ENDA makes it harder for them to get and keep the job that they need.

Let's get annoyingly repetitive: PASS INCLUSIVE ENDA NOW!

A written corporate policy pertaining to employees is legally treated as a contract in the entire USA, enforceable by the employee. These policies in fact do afford members of the LGBTQ communities rights that they may not otherwise have. They have been used to extend bereavement and parenting leave with pay to employees (in companies that offer these benefits) as well as to extend many other employee benefits to LGBTQ employees that arguably they would not otherwise have, such as access to childcare in companies that have this, health insurance to family members, hanging photographs of partners in the office cubicle, bringing partners or same sex boyfriend/girlfriend to company events, etc.

The existence of these policies, especially by larger corporations, is persuasive to legislative bodies on other workplace related LGBTQ issues.

The development and implementation of the policies within corporations itself is a consciousness raising experience for the corporate culture of a particular business. I would say that the policies are overall a very big plus for employees. Socially, they can tone down or eliminate what may otherwise be an atmosphere that tolerates mocking or otherwise abusing LGBTQ persons in conversation generally or specifically referring to a particular employee. The policy can act as an "anti-bullying" law in the workplace. Persons who habitually are verbally derogatory concerning LGBTQ persons can be "written up", in some cases insuring that they are not going to be promoted to managerial levels. These policies are especially helpful in parts of the country in which people wear their religion on their sleeve, and feel compelled to open their mouths about others "lifestyles" whether this is relevant to work or not.

Inclusive ENDA now! | February 3, 2011 3:35 PM


1,000 words is quite a lot on a topic like Chick-Fil-A when not a single one of those words was “ENDA.” You wrote at the start of your post that “Catching up on it last night made me want to put down some thoughts here, but I'll admit this business didn't spark my interest for a while.” You then proceed to dedicate various meandering paragraphs to topics such as the USDA recommendations for sodium intake, but not a single word to advocating for ENDA.

People often complain that ENDA does not get enough attention – and that is true even in our own community and on our own blogs – and this post is an example of that.

My point is that if we are going to get ENDA passed in Congress and signed by the President in 2013 – and that is sadly still a big “if” – we are going to have to keep on bringing it up –repeatedly – for the next two or three years. We have to tell our stories of why ENDA is needed if we want it to move. The news about Chick-Fil-A is a perfect opportunity point out the reality of LGBT working-class teenagers in the South for whom a job at Chick-Fil-A would be a great way to save money for college, but the lack of ENDA prevents them from getting or keeping that job. Or if they get it, perhaps they face a hostile anti-LGBT work environment while they are there.

It’s a Southern company, operating mostly in the states with no state version of ENDA, and they’ve got a track record as anti-LGBT.

The take-away point – missing from your post – is obvious: Pass an inclusive ENDA now!

With all due rspect, and I write as someone who also blogs regularly - Alex is not obliged to make every single post about ENDA, especially in a post that's not specifically about employment protections for queers but about the question of supporting or not supporting a corporation.

His points about nutritional value etc. are especially relevant because no one else is putting this in that context: "I don't know how anyone could go to a chain fast food place and eat a meal without getting the impression that someone, for some reason, loathes them."

Your point are legitimate (although I'm always curious to know why queers have not supported EFCA as well) but, again, a blogger is not obliged to write the post that you might want to see written.

Inclusive Enda Now! | February 3, 2011 6:34 PM

I apologize for the two very similar posts… I posted one and when it was not approved after several hours, I re-wrote and re-posted. Then they both showed up at approximately the same time. That was overkill. My apologies.

Yasmin: Didn’t lots of people on Bilerico or other LGBT blogs recently criticize Dan Savage for not writing the New York Times editorial that they would have wanted (ENDA vs. marriage)? That’s a rhetorical question: I am just as guilty in calling out Alex as those who complained about that Savage op-ed of not having the content that they would have preferred.

Anyway, the point is not Alex’s post on Chick-Fil-A, per se. He’s a good writer. I generally like his posts. The point is if we want ENDA in 2013 or sometime shortly thereafter, I think we absolutely must have a very productive two or three years in terms of bringing up ENDA whenever it is relevant to an issue that is in the news. So far, that’s not happening with the Chick-Fil-A story. I think we can all do better, and by “we” I mean our advocacy groups, our bloggers, our protestors, our letter-to-the-editor writers, our P-FLAG members of our families, our allies, etc.

Best regards.

Also (and this has happened to myself and others I know)if you're not Christian or don't go to a church that they approve of (or at all) you're not going to be hired no matter your qualifications.

Somehow they manage to avoid the already existing ENDA in that regard.

Before I knew about LGBT discrimination, I boycotted Chick-Fil-A because I knew that they were owned by a right-wing christian company and they donated profits to such a "church." I shared this with all members of my family and friends, and they all have boycotted from the time I first read about the company. I have never tasted their food. The same is true of Dominos Pizza (and was true of the Virginia-based Ukrops grocery stores which now are defunct).

I am non-religious (no use for the nonsense) but tolerant of those who are UNLESS they are actively engaged in evil activity, e.g., hurting LGBT persons directly or politically. While my own dollars may have a negligible impact, I would have betrayed my values and integrity if I thought a penny of my money went to one of these churches/causes. It's also amazing how many people will follow suit once informed.

Rick Sutton | February 4, 2011 6:13 AM

Best. Post. Yet.

Aubrey Haltom | February 4, 2011 8:17 AM

Just a '2-cents worth' comment on corporate non-discrim policies.
Apparently counter to others' experience, I found a corporate policy helpful at one point in my life.
Just out of college, I had moved to Dallas and took a union job with (at that time) Southwestern Bell (now SBC). I was surprised to find sexual orientation listed in their non-discrim policy (this was in the 80s, and I was in Texas).
To shorten the story, I had an unpleasant situation with my manager. I went to my union rep (steward), who took up the matter. Within days the manager was gone, and a senior exec came to our office and re-affirmed the corp's commitment to its policy.
I've seen non-discrim policies accessed by others as well - on grounds pertaining to race, gender, etc... I'm not naieve, I'm sure these policies are not effective in many instances.
But it's not quite accurate to dismiss them altogether.

This conversation pulls at my heart and increases my internal conflict because I consider myself both a part of the Chick-fil-A community and an outspoken ally to the LGBT community. Chick-fil-A is a franchise, which means that each one is independantly operated. My first job (at age 15)was at Chick-fil-A. There were all sorts of people working there of various ages, races, nationalities, yes even religions and sexual orientations. I learned many things there including job skills and a good work ethic. I subsequently worked at two other Chick-fil-A restaurants during college and even received a scholarship from Chick-fil-A to help pay my tuition, not to mention the free food offered to employees. I still keep in touch with some of the friends I made working my first job, even though it was 22 years ago and I've moved 15 times since then. I spent three years living abroad and then another six in a state with no Chick-fil-A. Every time I came home for a visit, I would eat at Chick-fil-A. I even learned that there was one in terminal two of Philidelphia's airport and would stop by every time I had a layover there. I rarely eat fast food, but now that I moved to NC I find myself with a Chick-fil-A sandwich or chicken biscuit in my hand about once a week. (And, Alex, I only eat the sandwich, not the sides, and do eat a diet otherwise rich in whole grains, fruit, and low-fat dairy, thanks for being concerned about my health.) Some local Chick-fil-A's do a lot for their communities. I'm not ready to boycott Chick-fil-A. It's not because of the food. I really love the company.
I guess it's like my church. I became Episcopalian in 1995 and I love my church. Although there is a lot of discussion and division within my church regarding LGB issues, rather than leave my church or throw my hands up in disgust, I allign myself and become active with groups which promote ideals which I myself uphold in regards to being an open and affirming church.
It may seem strange that these two entities would be on equal footing in my book, but this is a very personal issue to me as both the church community and the Chick-fil-A community have contributed to my development as the person I am today.
Maybe it's time for me to rally my LGBT friends whom I know are also fans of Chick-fil-A.

Noticed that you dropped the T from LBGT once! Then in the last line you included it! Is it because your church might have decided that T people are excluded from your church? Chick-Fil-A corp.seems to be deciding who is a sinner and who is not by giving money to groups that promote hate against LBGT people! Is that really right?
See you on Sunday at Chick-Fil-A? Oh Goodness they are closed on Sundays! What happens to the people that celebrate their religious days on a day other than Sunday? What about their employees? Do they allow A person that celebrates their religion on Saturday to work on Sunday? Noooooo! They are closed on Sundays!

Alex has to occasionally blog about something other than ENDA, otherwise Bilerico could become boring. I am a T person and Get tired of ENDA. I do not mind attacking HRC but some times I have to make other comments!

Tony Soprano | February 6, 2011 3:18 AM

Regina, you rock!

As someone who travels frequently, I was puzzled the first time I encountered a fast-food chain (Chick-Fil-A) closed on a Sunday. A little research told me ALL I needed to know ...

RJC, who rocks, too, wrote a little earlier:
"... I boycott Chick-Fil-A ... Dominos Pizza... I would betray my values and integrity if ... a penny of my money went to one of these churches/causes ... amazing how many people will follow suit once informed".

Chick-Fil-A, and other companies (as well as a multitude of corps, entities, celebrities, etc.) ACTIVELY hate:

Add GE, all major media, and so many others, and it's amazing how any of us can eat, or live. It seems like they are against EVERYONE, not just LGBTQQIAAP.

Remember the Bilerico story last year about the Salvation Army? My dearly-departed father, a very LOVING and accepting man, told me long ago, they are a CHURCH, and not to give them a dime!

I previously asked the question, should we boycott? Now, I am convinced the answer is YES, it is time to actively discriminate against THEM.

Consider ourselves informed.