Stopping the Hate

The shaky case against Chick-fil-A’s founder

by Matthew Shaffer

There is exactly one Chick-fil-A in New York City. Which is striking, because New York City is big and lucrative, and Chick-fil-A is a big and lucrative brand. And, as I discover during lunch at its sole location on the New York University campus, it’s decently tasty, too. The menu is just what one would expect from the name: Chicken in various states of fry served on buns, with fried potatoes in various different cuts on the side, and pop and milkshakes for drinks. It’s cheap, quick, and charmingly kitschy, with a menu spare enough to limit the anxieties of choice.

This simple business model has made Chick-fil-A very successful — it is to the South what In-n-Out is to California — and its founder, 92-year-old Samuel Truett Cathy, very rich. Forbes estimates his worth at $1.2 billion. And he’s devoted his considerable wealth to a life of philanthropy. He has distributed more than $35 million in scholarships to help Chick-fil-A employees go to college, another $26 million to scholarships for students at Berry College, and another $18 million for foster homes throughout the United States. He’s been honored by the Children’s Hunger Fund, and won the Horatio Alger award and the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership, for his charity.

Incidentally, Cathy is also an enthusiastic Baptist, and one domain of his charitable giving reflects that fact. Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, includes religious language in its mission statement, and donates some money to causes like the Campus Crusade for Christ. Consequently, a meme has developed on left-leaning and pro-gay-rights websites in the past year that Chick-fil-A is virulently anti-gay. Since then, the nonagenarian Samuel Truett Cathy has gone from a noted philanthropist to a hate-figure — in two senses of the phrase — for many liberals, and has gotten a string of very negative press.

It’s become a prickly issue. The company will no longer take requests for comment regarding its donations, philanthropy, and political or religious activism. Cathy issued one statement when the controversy began to congeal: “In recent weeks, we have been accused of being anti-gay. . . . We have no agenda against anyone. While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees.”

Nonetheless, when a Chick-fil-A opened in Chicago last year, activists affiliated with protested to “stop the hate” and distributed flyers styled with a pun on its name, “Bigot-fil-A,” that the organizers apparently found clever. Elsewhere, college students have tried to get Chick-fil-As removed from their campuses. They were successful at Indiana University at South Bend. Which might have something to do with the fact that there’s exactly one Chick-fil-A in New York City: If the chain wanted to open another store here, it would likely face similar protests…


Stopping the Hate – Matthew Shaffer – National Review Online

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