READING, UK–On October 10th, American fast-foodery Chick-fil-A opened its first franchise in Great Britain, in the Oracle Shopping Center in Reading, a university town 20 minutes South of London. As soon as the project was announced, the local LGBTQ residents began protesting its arrival based on the corporation”s well-known reputation for donating to LGBTQ hate groups.
Just seven days after the opening, the owners of the Mall said the business would be closing at the end of its six-month lease “because it was the right thing to do.”
According to Reading Pride, a gay advocacy group, “The chain’s ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values and that of the U.K. as we are a progressive country that has legalized same-sex marriage for some years, and continues to strive toward equality,” according to a statement from the group. “We respect everyone’s freedom to eat where they choose. However, we ask the LGBT+ community (including allies) to boycott the chain in Reading.”
— Reading Pride UK (@Reading_Pride) October 14, 2019
In an odd reaction, Chick-fil-A management reported that they “only ever intended to stay six-months” at the location, a strange response considering the amount of money spent on building out the space customized for the franchise.
“What business would not stay if they were successful and profitable?” Martin Cooper, CEO of Reading Pride, was quoted asking by NBC News. “The point is, they’ve not been given the option to stay by the landlords, The Oracle.”
The whole UK Pride Organisers Network have a clear message to @ChickfilA and that is “You are not welcome anywhere in the UK and we will stand up, like we did today quite rightly telling you to Cluck Off if we see you again” #GetTheChickOut @Reading_Pride we all stand with you! pic.twitter.com/FOq6e1oGmU
— UK Pride Network (@UKPrideNetwork) October 19, 2019
In the United States, Chick-fil-A has over 2,400 restaurants and is ranked third in size among fast-food chains. Since its founding in 1967 in Atlanta by devout Baptist S. Truett Cathy, the chain has always remained closed on Sundays in every one of its outlets as a day of worship and a bow to its traditional Christian family values. However, none of that was particularly offensive to its customers until 2012 when Cathy’s son and current company CEO took a public stand against same-sex marriage on a radio show.
“We’re 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. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about,” the younger Cathy said.
While no one challenges Cathy’s right to speak his opinion on the subject, his comments during an election year in 2012 drew harsh criticism for being inappropriate when connected to a business spokesman. It is one thing for a fast-food chain to operate on biblical principles”—staying closed on Sundays, making donations to groups it supports, and remaining debt-free; but it is quite another to imply that people who support same-sex marriage—many of whom are likely customers—have a “prideful, arrogant attitude.”
In Reading, the reaction was swift and decisive. Chick-fil-A in out–sooner rather than later. There have been similar protests around the United States in various Chuk-fil-A franchisees which have been less effective. The most likely reason is that the menu items are popular and well-known for its flavor in the U.S. In England, the chain’s reputation is more for homophobia than fried chicken sandwiches.
Earlier this year, local activism interrupted Chick-fil-A’s plans to open restaurants at several airports in both San Antonio, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott immediately reacted by signing legislation dubbed the “Save Chick-Fil-A bill,” prohibiting government entities from taking “adverse actions” against businesses or individuals because of their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
Texas just passed a "Save Chick-fil-A" bill.
You're probably asking why pic.twitter.com/41TLe4DQqD
— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) July 20, 2019
For its part, Chick-fil-A has rolled back its contributions to LGBTQ hate groups, specifically limiting its conservative donations. In September 2012, The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) announced that Chick-fil-A has “ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights.” According to the TCRA, Chick-fil-A officials stated in an internal document that they “will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation.
Nationally, the parent organization is said to employ members of the LGBTQ community and has a nondiscrimination policy in place that reads “It has been and shall continue to be our policy that we do not discriminate in employment decisions based upon sex, race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, pregnancy, age, physical or mental disability, service in the uniformed services, genetic information, sexual orientation, and/or any other protected status, classification or factor, in accordance with the requirements of all federal, state and local laws. This policy applies to all aspects of the employment process including, but not limited to, hiring, assignment, promotion, evaluation, compensation decisions and separation decisions. It is expected that all individuals will avoid any behavior, action, decision and/or conduct that is inconsistent with this.
Despite this policy, last March, it was revealed that in 2018 that Chick-fil-A continued to contribute to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as well as the Paul Anderson Youth Home.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a religious organization that seeks to spread an anti-LGBTQ message to college athletes and requires a strict “sexual purity” policy for its employees that bars any “homosexual acts.” Paul Anderson Youth Home, a “Christian residential home for trouble youth,” teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is “rage against Jesus Christ and His values.”