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Marriage, Family, and the Chicken Sandwich

“Eat More Chicken.” That’s what former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee wants you to do today. Gov. Huckabee has declared August 1 to be “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” in response to the negative firestorm surrounding Dan Cathy’s recent declaration of support for the biblical model of marriage. Cathy is the president and chief operating officer of the Atlanta-based restaurant chain.

Should we support Chick-fil-A today? Should we affirm Mr. Cathy’s statements? Does Mr. Cathy have the right to say such things? The answers to these questions are yes, yes, and yes, but let’s take a look at why.

Biblically, we need to be reminded to stand together with fellow believers as they try to do the right thing. In Heb. 10:24, we read, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” The Cathy family has worked long and hard to build a business on principles derived from the Bible. They keep their doors closed on Sundays so their employees can spend the day in worship. They train their staff to treat everyone with respect and kindness. They have even created foundations to fund college scholarships and other educational opportunities for employees. They are working diligently to do good—investing in their people and their communities. In an age where business is marked with greed and fraud, Chick-fil-A is running things the right way.

In addition, fellow believers should stand for what Dan Cathy has affirmed—a biblical understanding of marriage. In an interview with Allan Blume of the Biblical Recorder, Cathy said, “We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Cathy’s statement is much broader than the media has reported. Certainly, his words exclude a vision of marriage beyond heterosexual union. However, he more specifically affirms marriage between one man and one woman for a lifetime. His concern is not simply with same-sex marriage. His statement expresses concern for rampant divorce in our culture, cohabitation before marriage, and the fringe elements of polygamous and polyamorous relationships that are becoming more mainstream.

(Dan Cathy’s) concern is not simply with same-sex marriage. His statement expresses concern for rampant divorce in our culture, cohabitation before marriage, and the fringe elements of polygamous and polyamorous relationships that are becoming more mainstream.

Marriage as the Bible describes it is a covenantal relationship between a man and a woman that lasts until death. Gen. 2:24 declares, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” This relationship is then a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31–32). I applaud Mr. Cathy for supporting this vision of marriage.

Socially, not only should we affirm Mr. Cathy’s words, but we should support his work that in turn strengthens marriages. The company uses its profits to support a number of causes, one of which is its own WinShape Foundation. One of the focal points of the foundation is helping people prepare for, strengthen, and save their marriages. In our society today, over 60 percent of marriages are preceded by cohabitation; more than a third of all American adults experience at least one divorce; and 34 percent of all children under 18 live in households without two married parents. These numbers are staggering. Marriage is on the decline, and we need to do all we can to support it. When a company like Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family have made it possible for us to be a part of preserving marriage in our society, we need to vote with our mouths and our money.

Politically, we need to stand up for Mr. Cathy’s right to speak his opinion boldly and without threat of retaliation by the government. The First Amendment to the Constitution reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech. . . .” Threats of retaliation by the city governments of Boston and Chicago constitute a violation of Mr. Cathy’s first amendment rights. Mr. Cathy has clearly stated that his position is based upon his religious beliefs. Therefore, blocking a company’s ability to operate in a city for the religious beliefs of its president amounts to the prohibition of his free exercise of religion. If that were not enough, Mr. Cathy has a first amendment right to speak his opinion under the protection of freedom of speech. Governments cannot discriminate against him or his company simply because he chose to speak. In fact, Mayor Menino of Boston and Mayor Emanuel of Chicago have both backtracked on their threats to ban the restaurant after facing the reality that such actions would be unconstitutional.

So what should Christians do? When we find businesses that promote biblical values, frequent them. Tell the company that you support the stands they take. Use your words and your money to demonstrate support. What about Chick-fil-A today? I say, go to Chick-fil-A. Buy a meal. Drink some lemonade. Eat more chicken.

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Evan Lenow

Assistant Professor of Ethics, Bobby L. and Janis Eklund Chair of Stewardship, Director of the Center for Biblical Stewardship, Acting Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, and Chair of the Ethics Department

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