State of Affairs

Chick-Fil-A Does Diversity Now – But You Still Shouldn’t Trust Them

· Updated on May 31, 2023

While conservatives have historically hated the very concept of a boycott, it seems they’re now fully embracing the idea. Whether it’s Bud Light because Anheuser-Busch dared to work with a trans influencer for ad campaigns, Target for having a well-stocked (if sometimes bizarre) Pride section and gender-affirming clothes, or even Chick-Fil-A for working to increase their diversity and inclusion standing, conservatives are ready to say “none for me.”

This is, of course, entirely reasonable (bigoted motivations aside). In a country where corporations buy the government, it makes sense to vote with your wallet. If a company is supporting an agenda that you don’t agree with, then there’s a good chance that spending money there will, down the line, end up working to push that agenda and hurt your own interests. What makes the latest right-wing boycott of Chick-Fil-A quite so bizarre is that the company is already the subject of an ongoing boycott from the left (though some have been tempted back by their chicken sandwiches and shakes at times).

For those who missed the memo, the original boycott of Chick-Fil-A dates back over a decade to 2012. That year, Chick-Fil-A’s CEO spoke out against marriage equality and filings revealed that the WinShape Foundation (a charity founded by Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy) had received millions of dollars from Chick-Fil-A and had in turn passed those on to anti-LGBTQ+ groups. These groups included the Family Research Council, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Exodus International, and between them they manage to espouse a range of different anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and pro-conversion therapy views. The left-wing boycott in response to this was large, but was met by a counter-boycott led by Mike Huckabee, and the counter-boycott actually led to a rise in Chick-Fil-A’s profits.

Why Are Conservatives Boycotting Chick-Fil-A?

So what could make the conservatives boycott a chain they once defended so hard from a dangerous liberal boycott? Chick-Fil-A have made Erick Reynolds their VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This is clearly a step too far into “woke” politics for some conservatives, who one has to assume are appalled by the words attributed to McReynolds on Chick-Fil-A’s DEI page:

Chick-fil-A restaurants have long been recognized as a place where people know they will be treated well. Modeling care for others starts in the restaurant, and we are committed to ensuring mutual respect, understanding and dignity everywhere we do business. These tenets are good business practice and crucial to fulfilling our Corporate Purpose.

Erick McReynolds, VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Chick-Fil-A

This has led various people to be appalled by the terrible politics going on at Chick-Fil-A and to pray that the company won’t abandon its Christian values. Quite apart from the fact that the DEI page is still headed by a commitment to “glorify God,” it’s not entirely clear what part of being inclusive goes against Jesus’ teachings in the Bible.

Ultimately, this is just the latest in the conservative’s playbook to expand the terror of “woke” politics to include anything that mentions diversity, equity, and inclusion or even the letters DEI, just as they did with Critical Race Theory. As is sadly becoming a habit, we can look to Florida and the desk of Ron DeSantis for a template on how this is functioning. In January 2023, DeSantis’ asked all public higher education institutions to provide him with details about any DEI or CRT programs that were receiving state funding in a move that was clearly calculated to be able to then create cuts in the amount those programs were receiving. If this seems like alarmist rhetoric, DeSantis proved that to not be the case in mid-May of 2023 as Florida enacted an official ban on DEI spending. All in all, it becomes clear that the conservatives hate diversity, equity, and inclusion even more than they love what Michigan Rep. Steve Carra once referred to as “God’s chicken” (while celebrating the overturning of Roe V. Wade, no less).

So This Means We Should Eat Chick-Fil-A Again, Right?

No.

Chick-Fil-A is clearly, in its public-facing capacity, working hard to rehab its image. A VP of DEI is a good step on that journey, and we can hope that Chick-Fil-A is serious about this new commitment and will stay the course. But for those of us who have been following Chick-Fil-A’s anti-LGBTQ+ crusade for a long time, we’ve been burned before, and it’s not so easy to trust the corporation anymore.

The boycott against Chick-Fil-A might have started after the push against marriage equality and the funding of hate groups, but that’s not where the story ends. In 2012, Chick-Fil-A put out a statement saying that “Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.” And by 2014 filings showed that Chick-Fil-A had stopped funneling money to most of the previously-noted hate groups, with the exception of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (which remains strongly anti-LGBTQ+). Obviously, this was cause for relief – the boycott had worked and it was safe to go back to eating Chick-Fil-A without fearing that you might be funding anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups. Right?

Again: No. 2017 filings demonstrated that those 3 years of thinking all was right in the chicken world were simply blissful ignorance, and Chick-Fil-A had returned to funding groups that oppose LGBTQ+ people’s right to exist. These included The Salvation Army, which has historically been accused of denying support to LGBTQ+ individuals, referring people to conversion therapy, and generally engaging in homophobic and transphobic rhetoric. In response to further outcry, in 2019 Chick-Fil-A committed to not funding the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or The Salvation Army in 2020. However, they also stopped funding many other groups at the same time, so that decision might have had nothing to do with their anti-LGBGQ+ sentiment, and they notably declined to say that they would not fund them again in the future. But still, that’s a commitment and they’ve clearly refined their public image, so probably good to go back to drinking those shakes now, right?

You see where this is going: No. In 2021, the National Christian Charitable Foundation led the charge to prevent the passing of the Equality Act that would have secured LGBTQ+ protections, along with plenty of others, as part of federal law. Why does this matter for Chick-Fil-A? The leading members of the charity include representatives from the infamous Hobby Lobby, and Dan Cathy. After the passing of Truett Cathy in 2014, Dan Cathy became the CEO of Chick-Fil-A and while he has since stepped down from the position, he is still the board’s chairman. While Chick-Fil-A has removed donations to hate-groups and lobbying against the LGBTQ+ community from its books on the surface, the money still ends up in the same place. Dan Cathy takes the billions that he has made from the purchase of fried chicken and waffle fries and funnels it into attacks on bills that could provide a new level of safety for a huge part of America.

But it’s all okay now. Because it’s 2023, and Chick-Fil-A have hired a VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. That’s definitely a strong move away from the things they’ve done in the past. We can all be confident that Chick-Fil-A and Dan Cathy are committed to no longer funding hate, pushing back against progress, or allowing toxic work environments to fester and force out LGBTQ+ workers. Right?

Yeah. It’s probably fine.

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