By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – To some people, eating at Chick-fil-A can speak volumes about a person’s political allegiance these days.
Since chain president Dan Cathy voiced his disapproval of gay marriage in support of “the biblical definition of the family unit,” the restaurant has received heat and support alike.
Justin Flowers, owner and operator of Chick-fil-A in The Mall at Barnes Crossing, said he is not worried because his business has remained consistent in the face of the political back-and-forth. Local owners like Flowers stand to lose the most from a boycott.
The Atlanta-based chain is largely concentrated in the Southeast where many customers are sympathetic to Christian principles, but Flowers said that is beside the point.
“We’re not here to make assumptions about our customers,” said Flowers in an interview with the Daily Journal, “but to serve them with honor, dignity and respect.”
His attitude was mirrored by a statement released by Chick-fil-A, which said the restaurant’s mission is “to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality, and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” The statement announced the chain’s intent to “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”
For many the restaurant has become the fulcrum for political and cultural debate.
City officials in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia, as well as gay rights groups decried Cathy’s statements as “intolerable.” Jim Henson studios, creator of the Muppets characters, said it would no longer be associated with Chick-fil-A.
On the other hand, Cathy was embraced by conservatives such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
Both sides plan on taking their agendas to Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country.
Huckabee promotes a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” to take place Wednesday, two days before the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s “National Same-Sex Kiss Day,” planned for Friday, also inside the eateries.
“I doubt there will be a problem,” Flowers said. “We have been doing the same amount of business as before.”
Chick-fil-A has 1,600 stores, and its North Mississippi locations include Tupelo, Oxford, Columbus and Starkville. Since opening in 1946, Chick-fil-A has closed on Sundays, functioned debt-free and contributed a percentage of profits to community service.
“We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives,” said Cathy in his original statement to the Baptist Press.