While discussing lunch plans recently with a politically like-minded friend, my suggestion of Chick-Fil-A was met with incredulity. It went something like this:
Me: 'Howsabout some Chick-Fil-A?'
Him: 'You're kidding me. Chick-Fil-A is totally an anti-gay, fundamentalist organization that employs discriminatory hiring policies.'
Me: 'Buh-wha? But...it's nommy...'
And thus the seed of cognitive dissonance was sown. I've dealt with issues like this before on my blog, such as when I agonized over whether or not it was morally acceptable for me to support the Boy Scouts of America, and it remains a challenging issue. How does one determine when or if the immediate benefits of an organization, in this case delicious fried chicken, outweigh the broader, less tangible issues that organization represents? That chicken is pretty damn good. I needed to be better informed.
Now I knew that Chick-Fil-A was a Christian company, but aside from not being able to give them my money in exchange for deliciousness on Sundays I never felt like it was a big deal. I may be an atheist, but just because something is Christian doesn't make it automatically bad. I've never felt proselytized at or discriminated against at their restaurants. As far as I was concerned if they wanted to lose money by being closed on Sundays, that was their prerogative as a privately owned business. Still, an investigation was in order.
The first article I came across seemingly put some of my concerns to rest. Yes, there had been some controversy over Chick-Fil-A supporting a Pro-marriage group by providing food to a rally of some sort. Not such a big deal, really. The wording in the title struck me as odd, though...controversy over Pro-Marriage policies? Not Anti-Gay policies? Oh, this article is from Catholic Online. They may be a bit biased, perhaps I should continue my investigations.
Then I found an article from an online student newspaper covering student protests over the on-campus branch of Chick-Fil-A. The students wanted the restaurant gone because its 'discriminatory hiring and business practices' and 'conservative-Christian policies' were at opposition to the message of inclusion the campus wanted to send. Dang, this isn't looking good for me. But hey, this is just a student newspaper, right? No references, no documentation...they could be just as biased as the Catholic site, for all I know. But the seed had taken root.
Next up was an article from the Forbes magazine archives looking into Chick-Fil-A's hiring practices. Apparently the company has been sued 'at least 12 times since 1988 on charges of employment discrimination'. The screening process potential employees go through is rigorous, invasive, and designed to select exceptionally loyal employees that 'belong' with the company. Seriously, read that article. This is some downright creepy shit. Even so, it's a privately owned company. Its franchises are independent contractors, not subject to federal employment discrimination laws. It's creepy and cult-like, but not necessarily wrong.
You can tell I'm grasping at straws at this point. I really wanted to be able to enjoy my fried chicken without the guilt of supporting a company so strongly at odds with my own values. Alas, it was not to be so. This investigation into Chick-Fil-A's charitable investments and partnerships, collected by EqualityMatters, really put the nail in the coffin. Over $1.1 million given to anti-gay groups?!? That's what they're doing with the money I spend on chicken?!? Well that's just a bucket of crispy-fried crap.
Now there is certainly an argument to be made against boycotting a franchise, seeing as how they don't actually make the policies I disagree with...but honestly, that's mostly rationalization. They are still enforcing those policies, and the parent company still profits. They aren't doing anything technically illegal, so not supporting the company with my patronage is about the only reasonable recourse left for me that doesn't conflict with my own ideology. Dang. Caring about stuff sucks sometimes.