The popular fast food chain Chick-fil- A has been submerged in controversy following public statements made by its president, Dan Cathy, last month. Cathy said he supports the “Biblical definition of marriage,” and that this generation has a “prideful, arrogant attitude” to think it has the “audacity to define” marriage.
“We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,” Cathy said.
Chick-fil-A and Cathy met support and backlash for his comments, and many Americans, including political leaders, encouraged others to boycott or support the chain.
Many Texas State students continued to eat at the on-campus location, officials said, but others started a petition on July 24 calling for the removal of the Chickfil- A in the LBJ Student Center through the online platform Change.org. The petition has received nearly 500 signatures.
The petition, titled “Stop the Hate at Texas State,” takes aim at Chick-fil-A’s support of “anti-gay” charities with corporate money. According to the petition, the fast food chain has donated more than $2 million to these organizations since 2008.
“This is not just about their organization opposing marriage for all, but also the view of homosexuality as inferior to heterosexuality,” the petition concludes.
Erin O’Brien, Texas State’s director for CRU, formerly Campus Crusade for Christ, said business owners have a right to their opinion, and “It’s a shame that someone would want to shut down (Cathy’s) business based on his personal opinion.”
O’Brien, who has worked for one of the biggest groups of Christian students at Texas State since 1995, said Cathy’s statements were “pro-marriage” rather than “anti-gay.”
“The gay agenda wants tolerance as long as their views are represented, but anytime someone disagrees they are defined as a bigot,” O’Brien said. “The reality is it’s such a small percentage of the population.”
Jesse Almazan, president of Lambda at Texas State, a gay rights advocacy group, said Cathy and O’Brien’s views are oppressive to the gay community.
“If you are going to use religion, it should be in a way that helps people rather than hurts them,” Almazan said.
Almazan said same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue that affects everyone, whether they are gay or not.
“A student might not have a gay family member, but there are plenty of gay students and professors whose rights are being denied,” Almazan said.
Joanne Smith, vice president of student affairs, along with other members of the President’s Cabinet, released a statement in regards to the on-campus Chick-fil-A.
“The political or religious beliefs of a company are not part of the vendor selection criteria at Texas State University,” the statement reads.
The statement clarifies the university does not endorse the views of Chick-fil- A’s leadership.
“We are confident that our students, faculty, staff and guests can and will make decisions on what businesses to patronize for reasons that reflect their personal values without the university playing a role in dictating those decisions,” it states.
Leslie Bulkley, Chartwells resident district manager, said Chick-fil-A is the top-selling national vendor at Texas State, and Chartwells has only received two complaints since Cathy’s statements were publicized.
Bulkley said she expects sales at the on-campus Chick-Fil-A to remain steady. Almazan said his organization plans on teaming with other student groups when the fall semester starts to mobilize students who are against Chick-fil-A’s presence on campus.
“By Chick-fil-A being on campus, Texas State is funding their cause, whether it’s intentional or not,” Almazan said. Vanessa Cortez, president of College Republicans at Texas State, said Cathy has the right to freedom of speech, just as detractors to Chick-fil-A have the right to boycott.
She is not surprised by Cathy’s statements because Chick-fil-A has aligned themselves with conservative values in the past.
“It’s a hot-button issue regardless of
what side you are on,” Cortez said. “People
feel very strongly about this subject
which has sparked many to take action
for their specific side.”
Cortez does not think the on-campus Chick-fil-A will see a change in sales.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of Freedom From Religion Foundation based in Wisconsin, said it is a moral issue rather than a legal one, unless a specific complaint arises alleging the restaurant is discriminating or harming an individual on campus.
“The students are within their rights to organize against Chick-fil-A and I would encourage them to do so,” Gaylor said. “They would have to put pressure on the administration to sever the relationship with the restaurant.”
Almazan said he was thankful Cathy made the statements public because more people are speaking out and being heard now that they know where he stands on the issue.
“It shows an increasing social awareness in regards to gay rights because ten years ago, I don’t think there would have been such an uproar,” Almazan said. “I think we are progressing.”