Chick-fil-A Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy has confirmed what many have said about the fast-food chain all along: that the company is anti-gay.
Cathy's statements have set off a firestorm of bad press and drawn the scorn of everyone from politicians to The Muppets.
In a new interview, Cathy told Christian news publication the Baptist Press his goal is to operate the fast-food chain "on Biblical principles." When asked if his company had an established position against marriage equality, Cathy replied, "guilty as charged." He added, "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."
LGBT groups have long criticized the restaurant chain for its donations to anti-gay groups. A recent report from Media Matters asserted that Chick-fil-A donated more than $1.9 million to anti-gay causes in 2010 alone. Equality Matters also reported that Chick-fil-A donated $1.7 million to anti-gay groups in 2009, including Focus on the Family and Exodus International.
Still, Cathy had previously insisted that he and Chick-fil-A were not anti-gay, and that his company has "no agenda against anyone."
Cathy's latest comments have become the source of intense scrutiny across social media platforms, with many people stating they were giving up the company's famous chicken sandwich. Facebook users took to the company's page to express their outrage or support after the company released a public statement on the controversy.
The company wrote that it was committed to treating every person with respect regardless of their sexual orientation, among other things.
"Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena," said the chain in a statement. "Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. For example, we believe that closing on Sundays, operating debt-free and devoting a percentage of our profits back to our communities are what make us a stronger company and Chick-fil-A family."
Asked to comment on Cathy's statement and past political contributions, the company declined to comment further than the statement.
However, the statement did not quell thousands of Facebook users who called the company homophobic.
Wrote one person: "We treat all people with honor, dignity, and respect. While simultaneously denying their equality and the worth of their feelings and relationships. Condescending, much?"
The statement did not appease The Jim Henson Company, either. According to the Examiner, The Jim Henson Company had sold Muppet toys to Chick-fil-A for its kids meals, but pulled the toys over Cathy's anti-gay comments. The company announced that CEO Lisa Henson supports gay marriage and would put invest profits from its past partnership with Chick-fil-A into the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
"The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors," the company wrote on its Facebook page.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino vowed to keep the fast-food chain out of his city, according to the Boston Herald.
"Chick-fil-A doesn't belong in Boston," Menino told the Herald. "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."
Not all politicians admonished the chain for its anti-gay stance.
According to Politico, Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts said that Cathy's comments showed that "in America, you can be religious and also run a business according to your conscience."
The restaurant has been a source of controversy among LGBT Chicagoans since it landed downtown last year. Last May, LGBT activists protested the Chicago restaurant before it even opened at 30 E. Chicago Ave.
Activists with LGBT Change passed out mock coupons that read "Bigot-fil-A" with a list of the company's contributions to anti-gay causes. The demonstration was part of a national effort opposing the chain organized by GetEQUAL.
Students demand removal of Chick-Fil-A from seven campuses
FROM A NEWS RELEASE July 26, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC — Students from seven schools across the country have launched petitions on Change.org in the past 48 hours demanding the removal or prevention of Chick-fil-A franchises on their campuses following this week's media blitz over the fast food chain's public stance against same-sex marriage.
The petitions target officials at the University of Illinois, University of Kansas, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Ball State University, College of Charleston, Wichita State University, and Minnesota State University.
"In the last several days, the president of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, reaffirmed the company's anti-gay marriage stance and their allocation of funds to support organizations countering the marriage equality movement," wrote James Castle, a law student at the University of Kansas, in his petition on Change.org . "Because Chick-fil-A's stance on gay rights could create a hostile environment for queer youth and allies, having a Chick-fil-A on campus deeply conflicts with The University of Kansas Mission on Values and the Chancellor's and Provost's personal commitments to diversity at KU."
Last week, a media firestorm erupted when it was revealed that Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy told a radio interviewer that "as it relates to society in general, 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'... I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."
Chick-fil-A's charitable arm, The WinShape Foundation, has long been a supporter of organizations that aim to ban same-sex marriage. Through WinShape and direct charitable donations, Chick-fil-A is reported to have given more than $2 million to anti-gay groups.
The student-led movement to block Chick-fil-A from college campuses began last fall when students at 11 schools launched petitions on Change.org after a similar round of media coverage. One such student at Northeastern University started a Change.org petition that, after gaining just over 600 signatures, helped in stopping Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant on its campus. Another student at New York University launched a petition on Change.org that attracted nearly 15,000 signatures, sparking protests against Chick-fil-A's presence that continue to roil the campus.
Petitions launched on Change.org in the past 48 hours targeting Chick-fil-A: