Is it ethical to eat Chick-fil-A?

Dan-Cathy-Chick-Fil-A-DOMA-Tweet-520x400The other night I attended the grand opening of Westwood Village’s newest restaurant, a Chick-fil-A. C.R., the young owner (all, or most of the brand’s restaurants are privately owned), welcomed us with warmth and excitement at starting his own business in a friendly new—to him—city.

After speeches and music we were treated to a sampler of all the wares, from three kinds of chicken sandwiches to salads, yogurt parfaits, and finally the richest chocolate chunk (not measly chip) cookies to send us on our way.

But when I told my daughter Lisa about the event she scowled and proclaimed that she wouldn’t patronize a homophobic business like Chick-fil-A.

I protested that the views were those of the company president, Dan Cathy, not of the corporation, and I’d be shocked if individual store owners like C.R. harbored anti-gay sentiments.

But now I wonder, is it ethical to patronize a business whose owner promotes views that are abhorrent to me?

Cathy was brought up in the Bible belt with biblical warnings about the evil of homosexuality, so perhaps he deserves some slack, and he has the same right to freedom of speech that we all have. My first reaction to Lisa’s strong feelings was to give Cathy—and Chick-fil-A—a pass. Just like most Jews now give Ford Motor Company a pass from the virulent anti-Semitism of its founder.

But Henry Ford is long dead, and the company doesn’t celebrate his ugly “values.” Chick-fil-A, on the other hand, is a perpetual celebrant of the Cathy family values. All stores are closed on Sunday so Christians can attend to their religious obligations. And the chief responded to this week’s Supreme Court ruling that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, by tweeting,

“Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies.”

A company spokesman tried damage control by issuing this statement:

“Dan Cathy, like everyone in this country, has his own views. However, Chick-fil-A is focused on providing great-tasting food and genuine hospitality to everyone.”

But as long as Cathy keeps up his drumbeat of fundamentalism it’ll be hard for me to get his views out of my mind and enjoy the chicken. So no more Chick-fil-A for me.


Sorry, C.R.


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6 Responses to “Is it ethical to eat Chick-fil-A?”

  1. Jack Marshall Says:

    Wow—two posts in the same month! Could EB be back on the job for real?

    I think the idea of promoting millions of individual boycotts against any business owned by someone whose political and social views don’t line up with yours is essentially un-American, and advocates a nation of bullies who are determined to punish each other for legal beliefs and conduct. It’s inherently unfair and absurdly arbitrary. Go ahead and research the owners of any business, and I bet you’ll be able to find believes, pet causes and even conduct to boycott.

    Your friend led you astray. If I followed that theory, as an ethicist, I’d have to boycott Ethics Bob because he supported Bill Clinton.

  2. Ethics Bob Says:

    It isn’t that Cathy has a belief that I object to. I’ve seen boycotts against people who donated to Prop 8 and I abhor them.

    I think everybody is entitled to free speech that I find objectionable. But in the case of Chick-fil-A and Dan Cathy, his views are everywhere. I feel that if I enter a store I’ll be publicly endorsing his views, which I consider are corrosive to our society.

  3. Allen Says:

    Interesting, EB. I would hope that you are entirely consistent and that you also will not watch any TV shows or movies that Alec Baldwin stars in. Of course you would not give him a free pass because his political philosophies line up with yours would you? That would be entirely hypocritical… Just sayin’

    • Ethics Bob Says:

      No hypocrisy here — I find Cathy’s views both repugnant and in my face. I find Baldwin’s behavior repugnant although not his politics. Because of his behavior I don’t think he is as funny as I used to, & I don’t enjoy watching him.

  4. Gavin Says:

    You know that the company will hire anyone who is able to work, no matter their belief. This country is founded on the belief of beliefs. If we don’t share our beliefs, even if they are not what others believe, we are not agreeing with the foundations of this country.

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