OPINION: Chick-fil-A’s homophobic politics should not be allowed on campus

Imagine a delicious chicken sandwich. Imagine the weight of it in your hands, the savory flavors of the bun and patty, the mouth feel. 

Now imagine that sandwich taking a hard-line stance against gay marriage and bankrolling gay conversion therapy. 

Suddenly, it’s not so delicious. It’s too homophobic to eat now. It is a gross sandwich.

Chick-fil-A Inc. collects a profit based on the performance of their individual locations, including the on-campus restaurant. This location also carries the benefit of mandatory meal plans for first-year studtents aiding the costs of business.

 According to a PDF created by Dining Services, 60 percent of these meal plans are put toward Dining Services’ operational costs, including the on-campus Chick-fil-A. 

Students living in these residence halls have no say regarding how this portion of the money is spent. 

Chick-fil-A’s reputation for speaking out against LGBTQ causes such as gay marriage is too prevalent to be ignored. The company also has a long history of donating millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ causes, including the Family Research Council, which Southern Poverty Law Center has declared an anti-LGBT hate group, as well as now-defunct conversion therapy group Exodus International. 

Chick-fil-A’s recent donations continue to include organizations known to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose staff and student leaders must sign a sexual purity statement forbidding them from engaging in “homosexual acts,” even within the context of a marriage.

Chick-fil-A does not offer employees any protections against anti-LGBTQ discrimination beyond what is legally required. In most states, this means no protections at all. 

The Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index lists a score of zero for Chick-fil-A’s employee policies and protections, compared to a score of 95 for competitor Burger King and a perfect score of 100 for competitor McDonald’s.

An inclusive campus environment where students are able to feel welcome and comfortable is more important than profits or sandwich options. 

SIUE’s stated values seem to reinforce this notion, citing “social, civic and political responsibility,” and “accountability to those we serve” and “a welcoming and supportive environment,” with no mention of chicken sandwiches. 

Yet for many students, this does not reflect the campus environment at all. SIUE cannot realize this vision for many LGBTQ students and staff or their allies while forcing them to support organizations that undermine their own interests. 

Considering the on-campus branch of Chick-fil-A has recently been approved for remodeling, it is safe to say the university is invested in their continued affiliation with the franchise. 

This decision indicates a choice to continue the inconsistency between their stated values and business practices.

(5) comments

Julian Darius

I'm sure those saying "just don't patronize them" wouldn't feel the same way if a business were overtly racist. Obviously, some views are extreme enough that universities don't (and shouldn't) want to associate with them. The only question is whether this business qualifies.

It's great to say "I respect a gay person" and "we should understand there are differences of opinion," but if that "difference of opinion" is that gay people shouldn't have the same rights under the law, such as marriage or the right to exist without forced conversion therapy, this isn't a simply "difference of opinion." We can believe others are making mistakes and get along with them, but it's silly to pretend "you shouldn't have equal rights" is just another opinion. There's a qualitative difference between regular political opinions (e.g. tax policy) and trying to discriminate against a class or group of people.

Saying something is a Christian organization doesn't explain or defend against the argument that it's doing bad things that shouldn't be tolerated. In fact, saying this only seems equivocates between Christianity and bad things, as if we should have lower expectations because someone's religious. The issue isn't that some don't like the business's religious views! It's that the business's actions, regardless of their justification, are discriminatory and hostile to a class of people. Plenty of Christian organizations aren't homophobic, and it's sad that "hardcore Christian" has become a synonym for hard-right, discriminatory views and practices.

Finally, saying "grow up" is hostile. Yes, college is a place where we have to -- and should -- encounter different views with which we don't agree. But whether this business should be on campus is a legitimate discussion. It's curious that, in defending a business's free expression, some would be so focused on shutting down an individual's free expression. And I notice that this seems to happen more regularly when the criticism is leveled at a business or at someone with right-wing or religious views.

A quick thought experiment: imagine if a business discriminated against straights, was tied to groups that tried to convert people away from "the straight lifestyle," and supported the government prohibiting or invalidating straight marriages. I'm pretty sure such a business wouldn't be tolerated on campus. To make the analogy better, we would further have to imagine that straight kids were told they were going to hell and had higher risks of being disowned, beaten, and treated terribly. I doubt we'd tolerate this business, or shrug our shoulders because it claimed its discrimination was religious in nature.

Or perhaps we *would* tolerate such a business, because its views would be normal to us and we would have been taught that this was an acceptable expression of religion. It's here that we see our own double standard, in favor of what's normal to us. But unless we'd support the same, if we replaced LGBTQ with other groups, we don't have a leg to stand on.

Edward Melton

Look, everyone is hyper aware the Chick-fil-A is a hard core, Christian-based, corporation. The Christian faith teaches us to love our brothers and sisters but condemn what they believe is immoral behavior. I, personally, don’t care what people do in the privacy of their own homes. It is their business and my opinion of said behavior matters not. On that same token though, I don’t believe one has a right to shove their sex life in another’s face, nor do they have a right to overtly display it while they are working. This is especially true for companies whose stated values run counter to the individual’s. If that employee doesn’t like the employer’s values, simply don’t work there. Likewise, as a consumer, if you don’t like the company’s stated values, don’t patronize them. So simple. A company should have the right to maintain whatever image they wish. Ultimately, they have to live with the P&L consequences. I don’t think CFA’s policies are hurting their bottom line though. As for the FCA you mentioned, AGAIN that is a Christian organization! Stop trying to shove your humanistic values down everyone’s throat! You don’t like the FCA rules? Don’t join. They are as entitled to their beliefs as you. Don’t agree with them, say okay and move on. I know some very fine people who are part of the LGBT community, one in particular is a member of the SIUE faculty and is a person for whom I have an immense amount of respect! We live on, mostly, opposite ends of the political and social spectrum, but I like this person very much and actually consider them a friend. I mention this because I want to illustrate that you don’t have to agree with everyone nor do they have to agree with you for you to achieve mutual respect. You might even end up friends with that approach! This habit society has developed where everyone rushes to the extremes to start throwing rocks at the others is just plain stupid! Chill out and grow up.

Julian Darius

Thank you for this editorial and for the research required to write such a succinct summary. I knew some of this, but I didn't know all. This is an important issue, and it upsets me every time I see it that this business is on campus. I feel like it sends an unwelcome message to LGBTQ students and staff. And even though some have been aware of the homophobia of this business, that doesn't mean it's suddenly okay now! Thank you again! I'm glad I'm not alone!

Larry Martinelli

2015 called. They want their op-ed back.

Jackson Wiley

Ok, I get the argument here but you also have to realize that your money for a meal plan already goes towards all the foods. There's no way that the school could realistically have students pick and choose where their money goes. If you were really this passionate about it then dont get a meal plan and use your money that way. Yes you lose out on your discount but you already pay that amount anyway. And you could say that its paid by loans but if you ask for the same amount you need with a plan, guess what, you get a refund. Use the refund to pay for it. There are always options, just gotta think about them.

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