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Chick-fil-A sandwiches become a political symbol

FILE - This Thursday, July 19, 2012 photo shows a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Atlanta. Chick-fil-A, whose founder distinguished the fast-food chain by closing on Sunday out of religious piety, continues to mix theology with business and finds itself on the front lines of the nationis culture wars after its president, Dan Cathy, confirmed his opposition to gay marriage in June 2012. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

FILE - This Thursday, July 19, 2012 photo shows a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Atlanta. Chick-fil-A, whose founder distinguished the fast-food chain by closing on Sunday out of religious piety, continues to mix theology with business and finds itself on the front lines of the nationis culture wars after its president, Dan Cathy, confirmed his opposition to gay marriage in June 2012. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

NYC mayor enters Chick-fil-A debate

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he strongly disagrees with the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco over Chick-fil-A's position on gay marriage.

The fast food restaurant's opposition to gay marriage has touched a national furor. Gay rights groups have called for a boycott and the three mayors have said Chick-fil-A was not welcome in their cities.

The billionaire businessman-turned-politician called the three "good mayors" but disagrees with them.

Bloomberg supports same-sex marriage, but says the restaurant flap is none of "the government's business."

New York City currently has one Chick-fil-A restaurant. Bloomberg indicated the company would have to jump through the standard bureaucratic hoops if it wanted to open another.

He said it would be "inappropriate" to consider political or religious beliefs when making such decisions.

ATLANTA (AP) -- All of a sudden, biting into a fried chicken sandwich has become a political statement.

Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain known for putting faith ahead of profits by closing on Sundays, is standing firm in its opposition to gay marriage after touching off a furor earlier this month.

Gay rights groups have called for a boycott, the Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids' meals, and politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it is not welcome there.

Across the Bible Belt, where most of the 1,600 restaurants are situated, Christian conservatives have thrown their support behind the Atlanta-based company, promising to buy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries next week on "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."

The latest skirmish in the nation's culture wars began when Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that the company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family." In a later radio interview, he ratcheted up the rhetoric: "I think we are 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."'

That fired up gay rights advocates, including a group that waged a campaign against the company in recent years by publicizing $3 million in contributions that the Cathy family foundation has made to conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council.

"This solidifies Chick-fil-A as being closely aligned with some of the most vicious anti-gay voices in the country," said Carlos Maza of Equality Matters.

A Chicago alderman vowed to block a Chick-fil-A proposed in his district, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported him, saying, "Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values." Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote in a letter to Cathy: "There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it."

In announcing it was pulling its toys, the Jim Henson company said it has "celebrated and embraced diversity for over 50 years." It directed its revenue from the Chick-fil-A toys to GLAAD, a leading gay rights organization.

On the other side of the debate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, declared next Wednesday "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" to support a business "whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values." Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who like Huckabee ran for president as a darling of social conservatives, joined the cause along with religious leaders.

"As the son of a dairy farmer who milked many a cow, I plan to `Eat Mor Chikin' and show my support by visiting Chick-fil-A next Wednesday," the Rev. Billy Graham said in a statement, referring to the slogan in the company's ads, which feature cows urging people to eat poultry.

The Rev. Roger Oldham, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, said many Christians want to support businesses owned by fellow believers, and the loyalty intensifies "when Christians see a fellow Christian being persecuted."

"They will come out of the woodwork when a theologically based position is being politicized by individuals for their own purposes," he said.

The Cathy family has never hid its Southern Baptist faith. Since Dan Cathy's father, Truett, opened the first Chick-fil-A in 1967, the restaurants have been closed on Sundays, and the company refused to reconsider during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, sacrificing profits. It also boasts that the Chick-fil-A Bowl is the only college football bowl game with an invocation.

Chick-fil-A posted more than $4.1 billion in sales last year, most of it below the Mason-Dixon Line. Just 14 of its restaurants are in the six states and the District of Columbia where gay marriage is legal. Massachusetts has just two locations, both more than 10 miles from Boston. Illinois, which does not have same-sex marriage, has around a dozen, though only one in Chicago.

The company is well-positioned to come through the criticism relatively unscathed, even if it loses new markets in the North and elsewhere, University of Georgia marketing professor Sundar Bharadwaj said. He said that is because Chick-fil-A basically reflects the politics of its customers.

At a downtown Atlanta Chick-fil-A on Thursday, customers were divided over the company's stance.

"If you're a Christian, you believe in the Bible. The Bible says homosexuality is wrong. (Cathy's) absolutely right," Marci Troutman said over her breakfast.

Her business partner, Steve Timpson, said he chose not to eat at Chick-fil-A: "You've got to be more tolerant if you're going to operate in the wider market in this country."

Nearby, Dustin Keller offered another view of Cathy: "It's his opinion. He's entitled to it. I'm just here to eat."

Comments

dennistay53 2 years, 1 month ago

Way to go Chick-fil-a. This is where we will be spending our money in the future. All conservatives should get behind this company and support them.

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billyp66 2 years, 1 month ago

I totally support Chick-fil a. I will now even support them more.

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Conservative 2 years, 1 month ago

Ahh, the party of tolerance is showing it's true colors again. I love Chick-fil a!

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John 2 years, 1 month ago

Don't really understand the fuss here, over 1/2 of the US believe the same way. The owner has simply expressed his belief and his company is an equal opportunity employer.

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comensense1234 2 years, 1 month ago

What a statement " You have got to be more tolerant to operate in a wider market" What a fool. I fully support Chick-fil-A. They are good people and a excellent role model for the community. I totaly agree with Dan Cathy. As for being homosexual its your choice but stay away from my kids its to much of a negative influnce, and why do you fill the need to bragg about your choice and get angry if someone dosent agree with you. Dan Cathy didnt say you couldnt have a sandwich.

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