When Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy made a public announcement about his position on gay marriage, it seemed to catch a lot of people off guard. But it shouldn’t have. The connection between food and political positions is actually nothing new.
When I was in college, social conservative issues erupted in an arena of great concern to undergraduates everywhere: pizza delivery. You see, the CEO of Domino’s Pizza had been publicly donating to pro-life causes.
The partisan pizza politics began. Young Democrats boycotted Domino’s Pizza, preferring the locally owned business “Pizza Classics.” College Republicans began ordering Domino’s Pizza on a regular basis, even if they were allergic to tomatoes.
It began to be a bitter dispute. I remember one night where pizza was ordered at a party, and Domino’s Pizza showed it. One gal refused to eat it on pain of death. “They donate to antiabortion causes!”
“Actually, the Domino’s Pizza CEO sold the company to a guy so he could work on his classic car collection and the Detroit Tigers,” I pointed out. “The new CEO donates to pro-choice causes.”
“Well, I don’t believe you, and I’m never eating Domino’s again!” she shot back. As you can see, bitter partisanship had replaced practicality. And yes, even then, I wasn’t the most popular person when it came to politics. I’m not sure she ever spoke to me again. Oh well.
Chick-fil-A’s social conservative positions are nothing new. We always knew why they were closed on Sunday. But now, with that Citizens United Supreme Court case and the explosion of corporate contributions, it’s no longer a case of CEO donations, be they for or against gay marriage (see Target and Amazon). It becomes company policy. So now we eat and shop based upon the ideological positions of companies, threatening to polarize our country further.
A similar bitter development may well erupt with the Chick-fil-A case. My summer semester students are divided as well. Some strongly support gay marriage, while others support CEO Cathy’s position.
It’s a dilemma for our family as well. Our kids love Chick-fil-A food and their playground. I ran in the Chick-fil-A Connect Race earlier this summer on LaGrange College’s campus, and still have the running shirt. But do we go to a place whose name has recently become somewhat of a political football, where our presence defines our position on an issue?
“It’s all about freedom of expression,” one of my students said in class who supported the CEO Cathy’s stand. “People should have the right to express themselves.”
Maybe that is the best position. People should be allowed to express themselves as they see fit in America, whether that means their political positions, who they donate to, and who they get married to. Otherwise, you pretty much support partial freedom of expression.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College.