Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chick-fil-A : Today, customers decide -- appreciation or antipathy?

Public Readings - Chick Fil A. Just two weeks ago, Chick-fil-A was a fast-food restaurant best known for chicken sandwiches and cross-cut fries. Now the chain is known for much more, chiefly its opposition to gay marriage.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has declared Aug. 1 -- today -- Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, encouraging residents nationwide who support traditional values to plunk down some money and let the Christian-run company know it's not alone.

"We are closing in on 500,000 attendees for Chick fil-A Appreciation day," Huckabee said on his Facebook page this week, urging other like-minded individuals to continue to get the word out about the counter-protest. 

Roger S. Oldham said he never anticipated this level of controversy. Oldham, a representative for the Baptist Press, a news service dedicated to Christian Baptist news, said the news service picked up and published what seemed to be a fairly routine story in mid-July. It was a profile of Dan Cathy, president of the popular fast-food chain that proudly abides by Bible-based principles. (It is, for example, closed on Sundays.)

Cathy took the opportunity of the interview to proclaim his -- and his company's -- opposition to gay marriage. "Guilty as charged," Cathy said, adding that Chick-fil-A supports “the biblical definition of the family unit.”

You now know what happened when the mainstream media caught a whiff of the July 16 story. Deep-fried controversy.

"We just published this story like we would publish any story, thinking it would be of interest to our constituency," Oldham told the Los Angeles Times.

Except, this story wasn't quite like any other story.

It went viral.

Soon, gay right activists were calling for boycotts of Chick-fil-A. Traditional family values activists, such as Sarah Palin, who tweeted a picture of herself picking up some Chick-fil-A over the weekend, urged supporters to rally back. Mayors of several cities wanted to shut the gates to Chick-fil-A outlets. Others, like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said that was going too far.Late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien summed it up thusly: "It’s hard to believe that the greatest division in American politics these days is “pro-" or “anti-Chick-fil-A,”" he tweeted.

Chick-fil-A's brand name may have taken a bruising in some quarters, but it's too soon to say what the controversy will mean, if anything, for the business' bottom line. To date, Chick-fil-A has been the envy of the industry, valued at $4.5 billion. 

Today, America gets the opportunity to vote on it.

By Rene Lynch

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