By Deacon Keith Fournier
I ate lunch from Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, just as I promised I would do in my article entitled "A Catholic Hooray for Chick-fil-A: Stand in Solidarity for Marriage on August 1st". Frankly, I am still amazed by the experience. Driving to the restaurant I encountered traffic congestion unlike anything I have experienced in a long time. I automatically assumed there was road construction.
However, because it was "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" I decided to resist my strong inclination to turn around. My first surprise came when I discovered that the traffic congestion had nothing to do with construction. There was none. As I turned into the shopping area where the closest restaurant was located, I next assumed the traffic was comprised of people going to the nearby Sam's Club and other large stores which often draw crowds. Once again I was wrong.
When I finally got close to the North Battlefield Blvd. Chesapeake Chick-fil-A restaurant it became clear - everyone had the same idea I did! The cars which had caused the congestion were all going to Chick-fil-A. There were no parking spaces left anywhere. In fact, the cars spilled out along the streets and filled spaces in adjacent lots.
I surveyed the inside of the restaurant and quickly decided to use the take out window. It took me a long time to even get into the lane because it wrapped around the building three times and spilled out onto the feeder road. The restaurant had to send out a young male employee to direct traffic away from the crowds of people going in and out.
The massive crowd reflected a cross section of America. They were young, old, middle aged and senior. They were thin, overweight, short, tall, well groomed, sloppy, well dressed, tattooed and of every race and color. There were young Moms with their children in tow, blue collar workers, students and business men and women. Amazingly, everyone was kind, courteous and willing to wait in line. No-one complained and most were smiling.
In fact, you sensed you were participating in something historic by simply purchasing a chicken sandwich. I do not doubt everyone wanted their chicken sandwich, especially after such a long wait. However, they were there, like me, for a reason much more important. They were making a collective statement of support for the Restaurants' willingness to stand up for marriage and family in the face of open hostility, ridicule and threats.
They were standing up for free speech and against political correctness. They were applauding with their purchase the courage shown by the owners of this restaurant. They did not back down in the face of forceful, even hateful, opposition from those who, while claiming to be tolerant have become so intolerant of those who do not agree with them.
Chick-fil-A was founded over thirty years ago by an evangelical protestant Christian named Truett Cathy. His son Dan now runs the family owned and family values based company which now operates 1600 stores. It has become a $4 billion dollar a year enterprise. You can read about this good family and their genuine and living Christian faith here. You might also find their work in philanthropy of interest. Read about it here.
The restaurants do not open on Sunday in order to honor the Lord's Day and allow their employees to do the same. They have resisted efforts to change not only this policy but other pressures to compromise on their core convictions. The founders offer us all an example of moral coherence as Christians. They apply the great principles of their faith to their business practices. They do not fall prey to the separation between faith and life which can so quickly creep into the life of Christians.
Chick-fil-A has been under assault because their President publicly affirmed their company support for true marriage and the family and society founded upon it. Dan Cathy expressed his deeply held religious convictions to the Baptist Press in an interview and literally - all hell broke loose among some new Cultural Revolutionaries.
Among the most vocal opponents was Carlos Maza of "Equality Matters", a homosexual equivalency activist group. He told the Washington Post that Dan Cathy's position in defense of marriage, along with the contributions made by his family's foundation to pro-life and pro-family groups, "solidifies Chick-fil-A as being closely aligned with some of the most vicious anti-gay voices in the country." That is nonsense. To defend marriage does not equate to being "anti-gay".
The effort unleashed against Chick fil-A was an example of viewpoint discrimination parading as a concern for equality. This was also demonstrated by two elected officials in Chicago. Chicago alderman Joe Moreno threatened to block the building of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in his City. He received support from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Mayor told the Press "Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values." Such government action against free speech is unconstitutional and could be challenged in Court. Even the ACLU spoke out against the comments.
The Mayor of my birthplace, Boston, Massachusetts, Thomas Menino, sent a letter to the CEO of Chick-fil-A in which he wrote "there is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it." I asked in my last article, "Just who is discriminating Mr. Mayor? So much for your claimed liberalism and regard for free speech; you are engaging in viewpoint censorship!" I was not alone in my criticism. The outcry against the mayor's actions eventually caused him to back down.
The actions of this little David of a company facing the Goliath of hostility opposing their exercise of Free Speech ignited a firestorm of public support. Former Governor Mike Huckabee and former Senator Rick Santorum mobilized many to stand with Chick-Fil-A. The great Protestant Evangelist Billy Graham stood up for the company. Cardinal George of Chicago had the courage to take on the Mayor of that City. He was joined by a multitude of other leaders from across the confessional spectrum who came to the defense of the Restaurant.
However, what occurred on August 1, 2012 around the Nation was unexpected. I suggest it holds great promise for the coming election. The real people of America, the salt of the earth, have had 'ENOUGH!" They came in cars and on foot to Chick-Fil-A restaurants everywhere. The reports of the numbers across the Nation are astounding.
"Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" was not started by the owners of the restaurant chain. Mike Huckabee first mentioned it and then it took on a life of its own. It was propelled by real people who still believe that the values which informed the American experiment in ordered liberty are still the path to a future of freedom.
As I received my chicken today I said to the smiling assistant at the window "Who would have ever thought this would happen"? She responded with a smile "it gives me hope for America". Me too! If people will go to Chick-Fil-A to make this kind of statement, they will go to the voting booth on November 8, 2012. There, they can do something far more important.
They can cast their vote to affirm Life, defend Marriage, protect Freedom and promote the values which alone will ensure that America's greatest days are still ahead of us. Chick-fil-A Day reveals the way to a victory for Marriage, Life and Freedom on November 6, 2012. Maybe we should call Election day Freedom Appreciation Day and mobilize these same "salt of the earth" people to change history.