US Catholic Faith in Real Life

To eat or not to eat at Chick-fil-A: Is it really a moral question?

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

At its more than 1,600 locations nationwide, customers today will be lining up to celebrate "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." But it isn't because they're craving a chicken sandwich or the restaurant's signature waffle cut fries.

By now you've surely seen and heard how both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage have politicized the chicken sandwich in the wake of Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy's controversial comments on marriage and family values. The story ignited a firestorm over what was already a hot button issue, with people on both sides of the debate pledging support to Chick-fil-A or vowing never to eat another waffle fry.

Here in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the restaurant didn't reflect the values of the city, which caught the attention of Chicago archbishop Cardinal Francis George. He used the opportunity to decry attempts by the state to redefine marriage and to once again argue the church's position on the matter. Debates about the issue played out in other cities as well, including New York and Boston.

Like a child caught in the middle of a bitter divorce, the real victim here is the poor chicken sandwich, which has been turned into a symbol of either "traditional values" or some form of bigotry, depending on your viewpoint.

Cathy of course has every right as a private citizen to speak freely about his faith, values, and political opinions. The fact that he owns a successful business doesn't change that, and there are certainly plenty of businesses that are allowed to produce products that others may find offensive. The difference here is that no one is offended by the food, just the practices of the owner.

Whether or not someone eats at Chick-fil-A shouldn't be a reflection on their personal beliefs or their political leaning. Neither should drinking coffee from Starbucks just because their president supports same-sex marriage. I'm all for debating these issues, and for bringing our faith to the table when we do. But what food is on that table shouldn't make a difference.