Let’s not be stupid, people

Full disclosure:  I have never eaten at Chick-fil-A.

Part of this is due to the lack of any of their franchises around where I live.  The last time I know I had the chance to sample their wares was years and years ago, back at a mall in my home state.  Also, because I am a colossal nerd, I will just come right out and admit that part of my aversion to eating their food is that I really, really hate dumb, intentional misspellings, and I find the company name intensely annoying.  And I’m not a big fast-food consumer under the best of circumstances.

Oh, and the company leadership isn’t so hot on legal equality for gay folks.  So there’s that, too.

[Aside: I find it hysterical that the president of Chick-fil-A supports the “biblical” definition of marriage, which I guess means he’s going to be out there stumping for polygamy and forced matrimony to one’s deceased husband’s brother any day now.  If that ends up being the case, I will totally start eating at Chick-fil-A, fished-up spelling be damned.]

All of this is to say that my refusal to eat at the chain henceforth probably won’t have a noticeable effect on their bottom line.  I was no more likely to spend money there than at, say, La Perla, so it’s all pretty much a wash anyway.  But on the off chance I have a hankering for fried chicken as I happen upon one of their stores, I will have to keep walking I’m afraid.

But I would like people who share my perspective to please not act like fools.  By all means, patronize businesses whose corporate values align with yours and save your money on those that don’t.  Hooray for the marketplace!  However, I have some trouble with this:

Mayor Thomas M. Menino is vowing to block Chick-fil-A from bringing its Southern-fried fast-food empire to Boston — possibly to a popular tourist spot just steps from the Freedom Trail — after the family-owned firm’s president suggested gay marriage is “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.”

“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” Menino told the Herald yesterday.

“That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”


[Menino] said he plans to fire off a letter to the company’s Atlanta headquarters “telling them my feelings on the matter.”

“If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies,” he warned.

What?!??!?  NOOOOOOOOOO!!  No, no, no, no, no, no, no!

That’s not how licenses are supposed to work!  You don’t dole them out because the company that wants them makes you happy.  You set neutral requirements based on public health, employee safety, etc and anyone who meets those requirements gets a license.  Period.  If Chick-fil-A refuses to grant gay employees benefits that its straight employees enjoy, thus violating Massachusetts law, then by all means go after them for it.  But because their leaders support a cause you oppose?  That’s rank coercion using the mechanisms of the state to force private behavior, and it makes every libertarian hair on my head (of which I have a fair share) stand on end.  Menino should walk back his remarks, and maybe blame them on side effects of medication he was taking or something.

And then there was this opinion I came across in HuffPo:

Atlanta is an international city with 12 Fortune 500 companies and 2,100 international companies and is the former host of the Olympics. Chick-fil-A calls Atlanta home, yet with small-minded views, this high-profile citizen brings a closed-minded sensibility that the city has long since moved past. International cities are filled with all types of people, including closeted chicken-biscuit lovers.

[Company President Dan] Cathy, do the right thing and apologize. Once you separate the view from the vision, we can all go back to making Atlanta the great city we know it can be. If nothing else, if you apologize, I’d be happy to treat you to lunch. At Chick-fil-A.

Argh!  NO!

I know I keep saying the same thing, but nobody benefits when people are dragooned into making public apologies that they don’t mean.  Cathy has the right to support a cause I despise with his money, and I have the right to spend mine somewhere other than at his business.  It’s a free fishin’ country!  If sufficient gays and lesbians and tens of thousands of their closest friends start buying their fried chicken elsewhere (here’s something to help you make up your minds), then maybe that will induce if not a change of heart, then at least a revision of where the company spends its money.  Hooray for the marketplace!

But what is the point of telling Cathy to say he’s sorry?  He won’t really be sorry!  It will be a meaningless pantomime of contrition that will effect no real change of heart, and quite likely will only make him more privately resentful and determined than ever, just more secretively.  I might stridently oppose everything Cathy stands for, but at least I know he stands for it and we can both make honest appraisals of how best to deal with each other.  I certainly don’t admire his position, but making him pretend he doesn’t have it is worse than useless.

According to that HuffPo piece, the food at Chick-fil-A is genuinely yummy.  (All this talk has kind of made me crave fried chicken.)  It’s a bummer that there are numerous barriers to my trying it at this time.  I’d be tickled pink if Cathy and company had a change of heart.  But there are good ways and bad ways of trying to get people to change what they do, and neither of these ideas are any good.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


      • It’s good, but as far as chicken sandwiches go I’d rather have Wendy’s Spicy. I think it’s certainly overhyped due to its regional scarcity.

        As far as pure “fried chicken”, Popeye’s blows it out of the water.

        • Whenever possible, go to a local mom n’ pop outfit. It’s the politically correct thing to do (unless they fight against everything you believe in, too).

          You are right, though. Each time someone (doesn’t matter what line of work they’re in) is publicly called on to “recant! recant!” I’m reminded of the Cultural Revolution.

          • My favorite coffeehouse in Redstone is under a proprietor family with… unfortunate worldviews. Leaves me in a bit of a bind, because it’s otherwise my favorite place. Not many coffeehouses opened past four with good WiFi and free access to restrooms.

      • I’m afraid I have to disagree with Plinko. It’s good stuff. No one else has anything like the Chicken Biscuit.

        It is on the expensive side, if that helps. I didn’t eat there frequently even when I was around one.

        • They have a breakfast bagel with chicken and egg on it (I like the irony there). It’s guaranteed to brighten your morning.

  1. Before I knew of just how far into Looney Christianville the onwers of this company were, I’d enjoyed their products on several occasions. It is a superior quality product for its bracket of restaurant. They fry the chicken in pure peanut oil, among other tricks; costs a little more than soybean and safflower oil, but it tastes way better.

    But I think you’re dead on right here. The government needs to be neutral to the company. What Boston’s mayor is doing is, in fact, unconstitutional — he’s indicating that he will use the power of the city to license and regulate businesses in such a way as to target a company for the political opinions of one of its owners. If he can’t see the First Amendment problem there, well, maybe his heart’s in the right place but he needs to talk to the city’s lawyers once he cools down.

    Mr. Mayor, let the consumers of Boston do the work of pressuring the company to change in the form of boycotts and other private behavior, and by all means express yourself politically by joining them. But your first job is to make sure the city abides by the laws.

  2. Personally I LOVE Chick-fil-A and I go there at least a few times per month. I don’t know why this is such a big surprise though. They are also closed on Sundays for pretty obvious reasons. I will also say they have the cleanest of the fast food restaurants, the nicest staff and the best service. They have their beliefs and they are willing to lose profits if necessary. I might not agree but I respect that.

    • You respect the fact that they’re homophobic bigots?

      • No – I respect their conviction.

        And in this case ‘bigot’ is subjective.

      • I think he’s respecting the fact that they are standing up for their beliefs, irrespective of what those beliefs happen to be, regardless of the cost of doing so. There is something to be said for that.

        Casa d’Ice’s signs are enough to keep me from ever eating/drinking there, but I can’t condemn them for having the sign unless I am similarly willing to condemn someone that posts a sign with which I agree. In the latter case, I might say “right on!” Or maybe not.

        The conflict here is between the propriety of being accepting of all customers, rather than putting a line in the sand. There are good arguments both ways. I am probably inclined a little bit towards “leave the politics to politics, sing your songs, sell me your warez, and let’s not make a sandwich political.” But I do respect those who disagree.

  3. I prefer El Pollo Hermanos, whose owner is reputedly a big booster of law enforcement.

  4. Sometimes I wonder what would be left as far as options if we boycotted every business that disagreed with us politically and I cringe. For one thing, it seems virtually every pizza chain is run by a conservative Republican.

    Other times I wonder what customers businesses that openly take a dump on potential customers due to their political views would have left and I grin. Our wallets are our voices, after all, and we can deny them our money for whatever reason we have.

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