The New York Times ran this story about accusations by the gay rights community about discrimination at Chick-fil-A.
This is a difficult, dangerous issue not just for Chick-fil-A but many companies and organizations. Social/moral issues like this are powder kegs with strong feelings on both sides. As a result, it is very dangerous for any company or organization to be caught in the crossfire between people who have strong feelings either way.
Dan Cathy’s message on vimeo was right on target in my mind. He addressed two accusations made against the company. One, that it discriminates against gays or is “anti-gay” and second, that the donation of one of their independent operators of free sandwiches to a pro-marriage (non-same sex variety) organization in Pennsylvania demonstrates that Chick-fil-A as an organization supports anti-gay causes. I believe he did a good job of addressing both of these by emphasizing their treatment of all customers and by pointing out that their operators support many community organizations.
The accusations against the company, and therefore the controversy, is clearly unfair and unsubstantiated. I believe the New York Times, as they are wont to do whenever possible, is using this story to provoke rather than inform. This quotation in my mind has no place in a story like this:
“But Douglas Quint, a concert bassoonist who operates The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck in New York during the summer, said he believed that people should make informed decisions about their food.
“It literally leaves a bad taste because I know the people who are putting this food in my mouth actively loathe me,” he said. “I’m all for freedom of religion, it’s just that I know where I want my money to go and I don’t want my money to go.” ”
What I object to is repeating the comment “[they] actively hate me.” The reporter and editor know that no evidence was provided to validate this accusation. But the strange thing about news these days is that accusations can be made with impunity with journalists believing their only obligation is to report the accusation accurately. However, the company in its response would most likely be required to support with data any information it offered in rebuttal. This tendency was well document in Jack Fuller’s (former publisher of Chicago Tribune) book “What is Happening to News.” The sad thing is even though the comment is offered by someone without basis for making so serious an accusation, by it appearing in the NYT it takes on validity.
The real issue here is not gay rights because there is no valid accusation presented. The real issue is that Chick-fil-A has a legacy rooted in Christian values–and that is blood in the water to a substantial portion of our society, including many in the media. That is what the company is on trial for here, not its position on gay rights.
I think Dan Cathy did well in his response to emphasize the way the company values and treats all employees and that they support a wide range of community organizations. He may also want to emphasize more that independent operators decisions do not necessarily reflect the company’s position. But clearly, the word will go out to operators to be careful about contributing to organizations that may provoke the gay rights community. Beyond that I think Chick-fil-A should monitor it closely but not go further in response. If further response is called for I would advise them to call into question the New York Times coverage of this, for validating unsupported wild accusations and even using this story to provoke a controversy. The ground of the controversy should be shifted to where it belongs.