Originally published: Aug. 1, 2012, 9:43 a.m.
Updated: Aug. 1, 2012, 10:33 a.m.
CHARLOTTE — The ongoing national controversy over fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A, its owner’s anti-gay comments and the company’s decision to give millions of dollars to anti-gay groups has sparked conversation in the Carolinas.
Today, supporters of Chick-fil-A have pledged to eat at the restaurant though a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” organized by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. They say they are defending the right of company president Dan Cathy and his family to speak out on their beliefs. A host of local anti-gay leaders from evangelists Billy Graham and son Franklin Graham to Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James have said they’ll stand with the company.
And, across the region, Tar Heel Capital CEO Jim Furman has allegedly ordered that his 75 North and South Carolina locations of competing fast food restaurant, Wendy’s, post “We stand with Chick-fil-A” on their marquees.
Wendy’s corporate folks, meanwhile, were busy tweeting “We are looking into this” — like this one back to qnotes — in response to tweets on the subject.
Wendy’s International spokesperson Denny Lynch told qnotes that Furman, an independent franchisee and owner of the Carolina stores, had decided to remove the messages from his signs.
“This is one independent franchisee’s personal opinion,” Lynch said as he read a prepared statement over the phone. “We are proud to serve customers of varied races, backgrounds, cultures and sexual orientations with different beliefs and values. Bearing that in mind, this franchisee has decided to remove the messages from his restaurants’ signs.”
Activists across the country are planning on protesting Chick-fil-A today, including in Asheville. According to Mountain Xpress, Just Us For All will gather at a Chick-fil-A there. They say people deserve to know where Chick-fil-A spends their customers’ money.
A national effort organized via Facebook is also encouraging the public to donate a cost of a Chick-fil-A meal to one of several pro-LGBT organizations. The statewide advocacy and education group Equality North Carolina was included on the list, as was Columbia’s Harriet Hancock LGBT Community Center and their statewide advocacy group, SC Equality.
The Chick-fil-A controversy exploded in July when Cathy told the Cary, N.C., Biblical Recorder that his company was “guilty as charged” on its support of anti-gay causes. The company gave nearly $2 million both in 2009 and in 2010 to several anti-gay organizations, some of which have been named hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The largest bulk of the company’s money went to organizations supporting anti-gay marriage initiatives, “ex-gay” therapies and other discriminatory efforts.
In Charlotte, the controversy took on a local flavor last week when Mayor Anthony Foxx was asked about his opinion on the Chick-fil-A controversy during a local radio interview. He said the controversies were little more than “private sector” “kerfuffles” and shied away from further questions. Some community members have said Foxx seemed dismissive of the issues at hand. qnotes reached out for clarification, but neither Foxx nor his office has yet to issue an on-the-record response.
Local media in Charlotte has jumped into the fray, with The Charlotte Observer publishing a short article on the controversy this morning. Observer columnist Mark Washburn also penned a commentary sure to provoke a deluge of comments and responding criticism, and a guest op-ed asks Christians if their time and energy might be better spent on feeding the hungry rather than buying a Chick-fil-a sandwich.
In Raleigh, students at N.C. State University are urging their campus to drop Chick-fil-A. An online petition at Change.org has been signed by 477 people and asks that the university remove the restaurant from the campus food court. Students at N.C. State and Duke University had previously pushed for Chick-fil-A’s ouster last year.