Chick-fil-A furor comes quietly to Dundalk
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 12:31

Many turn out in support, others want boycott; Concerts in Park stung

by Ben Boehl

For as long as Chick-fil-A has been famous for its chicken sandwiches, the Cathy family, which runs the restaurant chain, has been equally well-known for its support of traditional Christian stances on social issues.
    The Cathy family’s views have come to the forefront of a national debate recently, however, after comments by Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, who has spoken out strongly against same-sex marriage.
    Dan Cathy is the son of the chain’s founder, S. Truett Cathy.
    Both sides of the political spectrum have called for a reaction to Cathy’s comments. Same-sex marriage supporters have called for a boycott of the Chick-fil-A brand and opponents, urged on by Fox News host and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, called for a national day of support for the restaurant on Wednesday, Aug. 1. Long lines at were reported at Chick-fil-As all over the country.
    Locally, the Chick-fil-A at Eastpoint saw a huge crowd on Aug. 1.
    Danielle Alderson, the operator and owner of the Eastpoint restaurant, didn’t return calls seeking comment. Molly Young, marketing director at the Chick-fil-A Eastpoint, said the Eastpoint restaurant couldn’t comment on the number of people at the restaurant, but released a statement from corporate headquarters.
    “Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business.
    “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent owner/operators.    
    “Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena. Our mission is simple: to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
    Local resident Bill Cain said he and his wife Debby were among the many customers at the Eastpoint location. He went in the mid-afternoon and said the location was crowded, but the atmosphere  was nothing out of the ordinary.
    “The atmosphere seemed as it normally does, calm, serene and peaceful. There were no loud angry protestors there,” Cain said. “No disturbances, and no chaos. I did notice a lot of couples, men and women who were together, as well as families.”
    Cain said he thought it was important to support the restaurant after it had been attacked for expressing its Christian values.
    “My wife and I love Chick-fil-A. But we also love our United States Constitution. We believe it is a right to express one’s views when asked, freely. I believe that the Cathy family have the right to free speech, and to run their company based upon their Biblical faith,” Cain added.
    “We support that, and we support Chick-fil-A. So many people have accused the Cathy family of ‘hate speech.’ If they believe that, then they must believe the Bible is full of hate speech because time and time again, God declares His hate for the sin of sodomy. He loves the sinners. He hates the sin. And God will be the final judge.”
    After the day was over, Steve Robinson, executive vice president of marketing at Chick-fil-A, released a statement thanking its customers, but didn’t release profits for the day.
    “We are very grateful and humbled by the incredible turnout of loyal Chick-fil-A customers on Aug. 1 at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country. Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was not a company promotion; it was initiated by others. We congratulate local Chick-fil-A Owner/Operators and their team members for striving to serve each and every customer with genuine hospitality. While we don’t release exact sales numbers, it was an unprecedented day,” Robinson said.
    “The Chick-fil-A culture and 66-year-old service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”   
    Chick-fil-A has sponsored many events in the Dundalk area, but the latest national controversy has caused some local reaction.
    Angel Ball, the organizer of Dundalk Concerts in the Park, posted a friendly reminder on her Facebook page about the concerts, but was upset when someone posted that they wouldn’t attend the event because Chick-fil-A is a sponsor. Ball immediately addressed the issue with her Facebook followers and said her event is about the community, not politics.
    “I wanted to stop it before it turned into (the political controversy of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day). I needed to nip this. I didn’t get angry; I got concerned,” she said.
    Ball added that this year has not been good for the concert series, as attendance has been down. She blames it on the heat, but still wants to see more Dundalk residents take advantage of this free event. 
    Ball said the last thing she needs is more negative attention, and the local Chick-fil-A stores shouldn’t be punished for what one person said.
    “I can’t discredit what Chick-fil-A has done for Dundalk,” Ball explained. “No matter what event, they have backed the people of Dundalk.”
    Chick-fil-A has sponsored and supported other events in the region too. Sparrows Point High School Athletic Director Russ Lingner said the food chain has supported school events and he plans to continue that relationship.
    “We are very happy with the service we receive from the Eastpoint Chick-fil-A and hope to be able to continue working with them,” Lingner said in an e-mail.