Chick-fil-A reflects badly on school

The controversy is not about chicken patties slapped on wheat buns with a sprinkling of lettuce and dressing. No, we’re not talking salmonella. Chick-fil-A, which has been producing these popular fast food meals for the past 66 years, is at the center of  controversy involving the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual (LGBT) community.

On July 17, Chick-fil-A’s president Dan Cathy incensed gay rights groups and individuals with his outright support for “the biblical definition of the family unit” on a Baptist radio station. His comments advocated traditional marriage while disparaging same-sex marriage.

First, there was an outpouring of support for Cathy’s statement. Everyone from the Rev. Billy Graham to the fast food consumer on the street flocked to blogs, Facebook and restaurants.

Then, the other side struck back. Across the country, same-sex kiss days as well as protests outside some of the restaurant locations bubbled up. The political sector was also deeply involved. While Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed to ban all Chick-fil-A stores from their cities, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee called for a National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on August 1.

The controversy struck home the night of our first home football game on Sept 7. Jefferson’s Colonial Athletic Boosters as well as other boosters from around the county have been selling Chick-fil-A sandwiches during home football games and sometimes during basketball games. Due to Cathy’s recent remarks, the decision to continue supporting the organization might not be in the best interest of the school community.

Jefferson has a tradition of being open, accepting and supportive, with its Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) garnering more members every year. Although Chick-fil-A is chosen as a vendor because of its cheap and individually wrapped sandwiches, in light of recent events, the school community needs to be more considerate of members of the LGBT community in our midst. Already 18 faculty members have  communicated their concerns over how the sandwiches reflect on the school.

The issue at hand is not about Cathy’s blunt comments. He is fully protected by the First Amendment. In fact, it’s clear from the company’s website that it advocates Christianity and strong Baptist values. Thus, Cathy’s comments should come as a surprise to no one. That being said, his remarks represent a sense of inequality that we, as a nation, have encountered with gender and race in the past century.

Should all companies be held to the same standard? For example, the Siemens Foundation, which was strongly affiliated with the Nazi Party during the Holocaust, also funds student research right here. Should Ben & Jerry’s, a vehement supporter of gay rights, also be banned in the future from the school?

Money, not the opinion of the company, is the real issue in this case. Chick-fil-A has been linked to many organizations, notably the WinShape Foundation, that put a real emphasis on marriage solely between a man and a woman. By allowing students to buy sandwiches from the company on school grounds, we are essentially donating money through the company to these organizations.

The WinShape Foundation, which was created by the founder of Chick-fil-A, received a donation of $8 million in 2010 by the company. Through the foundation, other companies such as Focus on the Family, Marriage and Family Foundations, Exodus International and the Family Research Council, all of which discourage homosexuality, have received millions in monetary donations.

Despite Chick-fil-A’s recent promise to stop funding anti-gay groups, until such action is taken, the school community should maintain an unbiased stance on the issue. Until the company completely ends its support for these groups, Jefferson’s Colonial Athletic Boosters should stop supporting the company on school grounds.

(This editorial originally appeared in the October 12, 2012 print edition.)