In January 2011, there was a report by a media outlet reporting an independent Chik-fil-A in Pennsylvania was co-sponsoring a marriage conference with Pennsylvania Family Institute (PFI). PFI has made it publicly known that they do not support same sex marriage. From 2003-2009, Chik-fil-A was found to have made more than $3 million worth of donations to various organizations via WinShape Foundation, who also do not support same sex marriage. In June-July 2012, Chik-fil-A COO Dan Cathy made public comments regarding his views on a ‘traditional family’. Cathy Stated,
“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit…we are married to our first wives…we know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord. I think were inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist to him, and say we know better than you, as to what constitutes a marriage and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant, attitude, to have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”
In response there were many supporters and protestors. However, in September 2012, The Civil Rights Agenda announced Chik-fil-A’s change in donations to organizations that oppose the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. Chik-fil-A made public statements saying, “will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation ”I reviewed coverage by both The Huffington Post and AdAge. Both of these publishers had interesting input on what Cathy meant by his comments. The Huffington Post respected his statements on how his company ‘operates on biblical principles, but were very critical that he insisted LGBT customers have a ‘prideful, arrogant attitude. The company was highly criticized on Twitter and Facebook. Many people were tweeting at Chik-fil-A questioning their ethics along with posting comments on their Facebook page. The Huffington Post gives off the impression that they think the comments were wrong, but won’t have a major impact on sales due to their well know Christian-Ethos. However, The Huff doesn’t seem to believe Chik-Fil-A should be supporting Cathy due to his comments.
AdAge took a very different approach when analyzing Cathy’s comments. Writer Jonathon Baskin believes that the company has major problems if there is no corporate social-responsibility. Baskin compared it to ‘junk-food companies sponsoring healthy eating campaigns’. One aspect where Baskin praises Chif-fil-A is the ability to tell the truth. They acknowledge that their political agenda is completely different from their business agenda. Baskin believes this should not be a plan carried out by companies, but has worked for Chik-fil-A. Baskin delivers a final punch to Cathy and Chik-fil-A by stating, “While there’ll certainly be customers who change their habits and start to regularly (if not exclusively) patronize Chick-fil-A because they support its values, there’ll be others who will skip it because they don’t want their meal purchases used to fund changing the lifestyles of others.” Blaming the company for focusing on a 2,000 year old text saying gays should not get married and man and women should stay united forever. In the end the main focus should only be on what you’re consuming. Tasty chicken sandwich’s and waffle fries have nothing to do with religion or sexual orientation. I believe both news outlets highly criticize Chik-fil-A, but focus their attention on the comments by Dan Cathy and their brand image. For Chik-fil-A to stand by Cathy is unparalleled to their statements saying we welcome all customers. The Huffington Post definitely took Cathy’s words for what they were. The Post was critical in his choice with words and I believe they have a right to be. As Baskin mentions, sexual orientation has nothing to do with the meals consumed at Chik-fil-A. I think Baskin is absolutely right saying there is a difference in their corporate social-responsibility and their business model. Along with praising them for the changes made to their donors and being honest. I believe the company handled this controversy properly, but could have taken one more step. I believe they should have fired Cathy for his comments. His comments were irrelevant to the company and only brought a public relations mess. By firing Cathy, they would have proved that they truly do not discriminate. Chik-fil-A was honest with the media saying they are open to any customers who comes in their store, because realistically what employees wouldn’t serve someone LGBT? How would an employee be able to tell? However, even though these comments might not hurt sales, they are negative for the company image and highly criticize the brand. Branding is very important to your company image; it is what outsiders perceive you to be through marketing. These comments will have negative effects with their customers, clients, and sponsorships. However, if their marketing and brand image don’t match, then ethical questions have to be raised.
If I was an employee of Chik-fil-A I would be very upset with these comments. For me, I want to work at a company that treats everyone as equals. This may believe me to think that Chik-fil-A might discriminate during a hiring process. I think it is very important for my values and beliefs to be equal to my employers. I would consider talking to upper management to see if the company does hold a standard when hiring new employees. If Chik-fil-A does have religious standards, I would consider not working there anymore.
A couple of principles that Chik-fil-A has broken of mine are Kant’s Categorical Imperative and Mill’s Principle of Utility. Kant believes that when one breaks a promise, it seems to be in his or her own interest. But, if all people lied then society would deteriorate. I believe Chik-fil-A is directly breaking this value. They are one of the largest fast food chains in the nation and have a responsibility to their customers and employees to be truthful. Chik-fil-A blatantly lies by forcing their Christian-Ethos on employees but in turn has no sales discrimination. Their business objectives need to be questioned. Chik-fil-A breaks Mill’s Principle of Utility by not seeking greatest happiness for the whole. They are not seeking the best interest for everyone because their COO has made statements rejecting LGBT. By discriminating they are not taking into account society. Ultimately more good comes from accepting everyone, than taking a discriminating corporate social-responsibility stance.