Chick-fil-A President and COO Dan Cathy made national headlines this past July when he expressed his views on same-sex marriage. In an interview on “The Ken Coleman Show,” a independently-syndicated talk radio show, Cathy said “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.’” He continued by stating, “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
Almost immediately, Cathy’s comments sparked a whirlwind of controversy about the implications of his statements with respect to the official stance of his company. While the personal beliefs of a company’s president do not necessarily reflect those of the rest of the company, Cathy’s statement has prompted many LGBT or pro-LGBT individuals to boycott Chick-fil-A and its infamous chicken products. Many have also expressed support for Chick-fil-A, notably former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee who called for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
The controversy brings Emory into the picture since the Chick-fil-A located in the Cox Hall Food Court was the first to open on a college campus. Emory has been recognized as one of the most LGBT-friendly universities in the southeast, and there has been much uproar within Emory’s LGBT community in response to Cathy’s comments. The University released a statement in August asserting that, “recent public statements by Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, do not reflect Emory’s values as an institution…Emory therefore respects the right of people to express their disagreement with Mr. Cathy by not patronizing Chick-fil-A.”
Unfortunately, Emory’s statement does little to address the big question: what’s going to happen to our Chick-fil-A? We at The Emory Wheel recommend that Emory replace the Chick-fil-A in the Cox Hall Food Court with another restaurant that doesn’t alienate segments of the student body.
While we understand that Cathy’s anti-LGBT statements do not necessarily represent the views of the rest of the company or of our particular franchise, we must also believe that the Chick-fil-A brand has become a point of much discontent for members of the Emory community. It is neither Cathy’s place, nor that of any other company president, to make proclamations about personal religious beliefs in public and, as a result of his actions, the brand is now associated with anti-LGBT beliefs. The restaurant’s presence on campus has become a symbol of homophobia and stands in direct conflict with Emory’s stated vision of being an “inquiry-driven, ethically engaged, and diverse community.”
Emory’s LGBT community is an active one and has already begun calling for Chick-fil-A’s removal. Letters have been written to key administrators and fliers have begun appearing around campus declaring, “Make Chicken, Not Judgements” and, “Don’t eat at Chick-fil-A, Don’t support hate groups.” If Emory University is truly the caring and ethically engaged institution that it claims to be, it will understand its obligation to the student community to remove this symbol of homophobia from campus.
Emory’s actions will set the precedent for other college campuses struggling with this issue and, once again, the University is being called upon to be a leader among its peers. We must also keep in mind that Chick-fil-A is contracted through Sodexo and cannot directly remove the chain from campus. But given that Emory contracts Sodexo, certainly the administration can apply considerable pressure.
To those students for whom the loss of chicken sandwiches and waffle fries will be too much to bear, we offer the consolation they may take in the knowledge that their sacrifice has enabled the carriage of justice on campus.