Breaking Up with Chick-fil-A by Gina Messina-Dysert

I haven’t eaten fast food in many years; however as a new mom Chick-fil-A offered something quite different than other fast food chains: healthy options, freshly made food, clean space, and a great spot for play dates; not to mention the organization’s commitment to the environment.  My daughter and I have made many trips to our local franchise in the last year.  It became a usual spot for play dates, the go to place for dinner when I was on a time crunch (grilled chicken nuggets, fresh fruit, and chocolate milk has saved the day many times over!), and let’s not forget the perfect option for Baby S to get some play time in while Mommy connected to the free Wifi to get some work done.  Yes, Chick-fil-A felt like a mommy’s dream come true.

I am embarrassed to say that I had heard rumors that Chick-fil-A was anti-same sex marriage; but I ignored all the warning signs trying to hold on to the many positives I thought the chicken chain brought to my life.  With the recent blow up of Dan Cathy’s response “guilty as charged,” when asked about Chick-fil-A’s support for families led by heterosexual couples, I can no longer turn a blind eye.    

Although some have tried to turn this debacle into a freedom of speech issue, Chick-fil-A has indeed participated in discrimination against the LBGTQ community.  Yes, we all have the right to say what we think; however actively supporting anti-same sex marriage legislation and providing money to anti-gay groups are acts of discrimination.

Mike Huckabee has claimed that the outrage directed at Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A is intolerance and bigotry against Christians. As a Christian, I am offended.  I wonder why some groups think it is appropriate to claim Jesus as their own and ignore the social justice message that has a central role in the Christian tradition. Jesus’ message was radical, about love, embracing one another, and not passing judgment.  No where does Jesus call for discriminating against anyone.  The reaction of so many to “break up” with Chick-fil-A as a result of Cathy’s remarks and active participation in anti-gay movements is one that represents the social justice mission of Jesus – it is a Christian reaction.

I will miss the play dates, the convenience, and even the food.  But as a Catholic feminist, I believe in the mission of social justice and support every person’s human rights.  Refusing individuals the right to marry based of their sexual orientation is discriminatory and it is wrong.  Although Cathy claims, “as an organization we can operate on biblical principles,” he has ignored the message of Jesus in favor of a political ideal that has incorrectly been attached to the Christian tradition.

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is a feminist theologian, ethicist, and activist; she received her Ph.D. in religion at Claremont Graduate University focused in the areas of women’s studies in religion and theology, ethics, and culture.  Gina is Director of the Women’s Living History program at Claremont Graduate University, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics at Loyola Marymount University and Co-founder and Co-director of Feminism and Religion. Gina has authored multiple articles and the forthcoming book Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence.  She is co-editor (with Rosemary Radford Ruether) of the forthcoming anthology, Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century and is a contributor to the Rock and Theology project sponsored by the Liturgical Press. Her research interests are theologically and ethically driven, involve a feminist and interdisciplinary approach, and are influenced by her activist roots and experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence.  Gina can be followed on Twitter @FemTheologian and her website can be accessed at

Categories: Activism, Christianity, LGBTQ, Social Justice

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. Love your moral stance. Hope others will follow you out the door!!!

    However, I wonder about your hermeneutic. I know that saying that there are many interpretations of Jesus’s life and teachings and that yours differs from Dan Cathy’s doesn’t make as clear a point. However, I would argue that all interpretations are situated and that your interpretation of Jesus’s or the Christian message is not the only possible one, and not necessarily the correct one. It all depends on which community one stands within and to whom one is accountable. At least that is what Judith Plaskow asserts, and as I read her, what Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza would say as well. When it comes to the life of Jesus or to Christian tradidion, everyone picks and chooses what to emphasize and how to interpret the parts that don’f fit a particular interpretaion. The “Jesus said” argument is not complex enough for me.


    • Hi Carol,

      Thanks for your support on the moral stance and I appreciate your constructive criticism here. My point is that no one should use Jesus to oppress and regardless of what your beliefs are or how you interpret the message of Jesus; certainly oppression is not a part of that.

      I agree that my interpretation of Jesus is not the only one – clearly there are multiple interpretations and we each interpret Jesus for ourselves. This being said, a review of scripture clearly offers a social justice message and that is not a “Jesus said” argument or simply an interpretation. So, I don’t think you and I disagree here. Thanks, Carol!


      • Actually I think Jesus can also be read as preaching the end of the world in very near-time terms. And since Jesus said nothing about homosexuality and not much about sexuality at all, I don’t know what “his” view might have been. However, from the point of view of the preachers of the social gospel, liberation theologians, and women seeking liberation, we can read Jesus as offering a social justice message. I don’t think we can get out of the hermeneutical circle. So maybe we do disagree, which is fine.


  2. Gina, thank you for contextualizing this situation. You are right–your reaction is also a Christian reaction. I’m sad you will miss your Mommy haven but I pray you will find a new situation for you and your daughter that is even more fullfiling. I have been thinking about this issue quite a bit like everyone else . . . it is interesting to me that Chick-fil-A has become the center of this debate. I too have loved this chain and am disappointed by Cathy’s position but it makes me wonder about all the things I turn a blind eye to becaue they’re not currently the center of controversy. I don’t want to think too hard or long about my Mac computer and the circumstances under which it was created and shipped to me . . . sometimes I don’t want to think about the food I’m eating and where it came from or how the animals were treated before they ended up in my breakfast sandwich. As an Ethics major in college I began to realize that if I really commited myself to a life free from our oppressive and violent systems I would have to move to a commune somewhere and make/grow everything myself. I have not done that just yet. In the meantime, how to navigate which companies/products to avoid based on their social and political impact is a hard line to walk. This controversy reminds me of that. I respect those who are now boycotting that company but neither would I judge those who continued to eat there. (I live nowhere near one so it’s a non-issue for myself.) I still have Apple products, I still eat at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks when I forget my breakfast . . . This is not ideal but it is what I do. I make compromises everyday because I feel like I don’t have enough money, time or energy to invest in alternative ways of living. That is changing slowly as I gradually make adjustments and creative changes but I wonder if my life will every be free from those kinds of compromises . . .


    • Thanks so much for sharing here, fleurdeleah! You comments are so familiar to me. In fact, I just had a conversation with friend and fellow blogger Grace Kao about this and she commented that Gandhi had it right – we need to make our own clothes, grow our own food, etc. otherwise we are buying into the corrupt and abusive system.

      I know that I turn a blind eye to many things. I don’t want to give up my Mac either! How do we balance it all while living in the US? I often tell my students that while we cannot change everything, we can select a few issues that are important to us and focus on those. That is what I try to do – I’ve given up Nike, Walmart, and others on account of my beliefs. But like you, I don’t have the money to be fashionably ethical. Very often it is expensive to do the right thing! So, I think we make changes where we can, commit to those efforts and hope that we can continue to make change over time.

      But as you point out, we will likely be making compromises throughout our lives – it is so disappointing.


      • Just wanted to respond here. Gina -great post! And fleardeleah – I appreciate, too, just how enmeshed we all are in all kinds of oppressions just by being consumers. What I told Gina is that short of living a radically simple life (a la commune living, Gandhi’s example, etc.) we must make our peace with the fact that we are always already implicated in so much. At the same time, just because we cannot be “morally perfect” should’t give us license to “do nothing.” So Gina on principle won’t eat at Chik-Fil-A anymore (n.b., I don’t eat chicken because I’m semi-vegetarian for environmental/ethical reasons). I applaud that decision and appreciate the sacrifice, I also understand how this decision can either lead to more like-minded ones or just might be where Gina (or someone else) draws the line.


  3. Brava! Yes, Mr. Cathy has a right to his own opinion, why is this a religious issue? Can anybody tell me where it says in the Bible that marriage is specifically one man and one woman? Abraham had two wives, and I think Jacob married both Leah and Rebecca, plus I read somewhere that he had children by the concubines of Laban, besides. It was that nasty old misogynist Paul who said it was better to marry than burn, but there wasn’t really any good reason to get married. How many popes down the centuries had children? Two other things I don’t get: (1) Why don’t people like Mr. Cathy (and the famous televangelists and preachers) just follow the Sermon on the Mount and behave toward other people as they’d like other people to behave toward themselves? (2) Why can’t Mr. Cathy spell “filet” correctly? Sigh. End of rant. But I’d really like to know where the Bible specifies one man-one woman. It seems to me that any expression of true love should be encouraged. If we shared loving-kindness with each other, the world might be a better place and we could eat wherever we wanted to. (Before this came into the news, I don’t think I’d ever heard of Chick-Fil-A.) (Did I spell that right?)


    • Thank you for the comments, Barbara – and for the laugh about spelling “filet” properly! I could not agree more that all expressions of love must be encouraged – just imagine what kind of world it would be if we as a community could nurture those expressions.


  4. Two thoughts… I was never one to eat at Chick-Fil-A, however, as a lesbian (and a minister of a year-old independent, progressive Christian community) I now look at the restaurant differently. I walk by and know that some of the money being spent there will go toward keeping me and my partner from having equal rights. I know that “Christian values” are being taught during training and I wonder what that looks like and what their employees are “learning”. I also know that I will never eat there and I appreciate those who stand in solidarity with me. It’s different when it is personal. And second, Gina, I really have to ask how you can break up with Chick-Fil-A based on their bigotry and yet still be a Catholic? I believe the Catholic Church remains just as bigoted.


    • Dear Kaye, Thank you for your thoughts here. I would imagine that it is very different when it is personal. As to address the Catholic question – well it is one that I struggled with myself for quite some time and continue to do so.

      What I can tell you is that being Catholic feels cultural to me and the Vatican is not Catholic. Catholic includes the entire community of which I am a part and I refuse to leave the tradition and give up the fight because of the patriarchal culture. I have great respect for women who have decided to walk away, but also think that women like myself who choose to stay should be recognized for our efforts.

      Whether in or out of the tradition, we all play a role in working towards ending violence against women and patriarchal culture and we should nurture and support one another in that. For now, I am choosing to fight the fight from the inside. I think that is quite different from purchasing products and supporting an organization that discriminates. Certainly, I would not be able to make change within Chick-fil-A by continuing to eat at there restaurants.


  5. With my slight dislexia I kept reading it as Chick-a-fil, and couldn’t figure out what that was! Never heard of it either.


  6. I don’t think the bible is a good source of information on heterosexual couples. The nuclear family as we know it did not exist then, men had many wives, men had women slaves that they sexually used and abused. Jesus wasn’t married and had no children that we know of.
    It is ridiculous for anyone to talk about one man one woman marriage in light of this historic reality.

    I believe people have a right to say anything they want to. If they object to lesbian or gay marriage, I actually have no quarrel with freedom of speech. What I do object to is the tone such discriminatory statements set for the Chick-fil-A corporate culture itself. We do have laws in many states specifically stating that discrimination against gays and lesbians is against the law. And gay and lesbian marriage is legal in many states where Chick-fil-As are located??? I’d never heard of the place until this big blow up. So if Cathy says this as CEO of the company, this will make it harder for gay and lesbian employees of the fast food chain, to put it mildly.

    I work for a Fortune 500 company, and we have domestic partner benefits, I bring my partner to company events. I’ve spent 10 years there, and have helped make lesbians visible in a very real way there. It’s still a very white male dominated industry, still highly problematic, but I will say that being out there has not stopped me from doing a good job. Sure I had to work very hard as a woman and as a lesbian, harder than all the straight people there; I accept that, and my reward is a much bigger paycheck because of this work.

    If our CEO made statements about lesbian and gay marriage like Cathy did, it would horrify me, and make my life harder. That’s what these idiots don’t get; they create a climate of fear in their employees and that is not good for business. You can look at many business studies that prove diversity and tolerance in the work place mean higher productivity.

    Chick-fil-A is simply a wake up call for heterosexuals who don’t really know much about the lesbian and gay world, and what straight people do to make our life difficult. I have been pleased that straight people are outraged about this, and that they are talking amongst themselves about what to do about Chick-fil-A. I get to listen, and haven’t said anything. My allies are seeing the social justice of it all, and this is new.

    But all of this discussion of families and the bible is wrong. We are putting a modern spin on life two thousand years ago, and it is not accurate. Men were legally able to have multiple wives in biblical times, men owned women as slaves… people like Cathy are historically clueless. And I have had this theory that Mary made up the story of the virgin birth so she wouldn’t be stoned to death by the male mobs of those times.

    You might say what really happened, and the myths we create in religion — well as Emily Dickinson said: tell the truth but tell it slant.


    • Turtle Woman! Thank you for your comments here – I think you make some crucial points. If Chick-fil-A is a wake up call, hopefully those who have not been directly affected or are not part of the LGBTQ community will stand in solidarity and recognize how this type of discrimination negatively impacts the entire community.


  7. I hope you don’t go back Gina! I’ll be watching during our lunch getaways to make sure :)

    Great post. I don’t have much to say regarding Chick-fil-A besides I have never been/eaten there. Hopefully more people follow in your footsteps.


  8. I’m really glad you posted this article Gina. I remember watching a news report with people lining up around Chick-fil-a and wondering to myself, do they even know what they are standing in line for or do they think they are just supporting their right to eat a chicken sandwich? I think it’s so important to know what we’re “buying into”….. I also think we live in a society that says this doesn’t matter. Some businesses are so big and involve so much money, that we feel (or are told) that we can’t do anything about their hateful practices. This is such a dangerous idea….it’s so dangerous to buy into the disembodied notion of a corporation as just a power unto itself that doesn’t have to interact with our own power– as though our power doesn’t exist in comparison. I have not rejected an idea of an omnipotent god to settle for worshiping the same idol in corporation!
    I too, do not eat at Chick-fil-a. My small family of 2 also does not shop at the local market that donates money to anti-gay marriage campaigns. These seem like little things sometimes, but I think it’s so important that we take even small steps and not let ourselves be lulled by the confusion and apathy that results from moral ambiguity.
    We do have power; and cheers to you for using yours!


    • Thank you for your comments, Sara! You are so correct – it is incredibly dangerous for any one of us to throw the towel in and think that we do not have the ability to make change. Have you read “A Feminist Ethic of Risk?” It is one of my favorite books, it makes such an important point that we must be mature and recognize that our actions may not create change in our lifetimes, but they will help to change ideas, make an impact, and support change happening in our grandchildren’s lifetimes and for that we must continue to fight!


  9. Thank you, Gina and everyone who responded to this post. As a younger woman, I was much more aware of the various companies that I wanted to avoid, because the people around me kept me informed. These days it’s harder. But my spouse and I keep trying. Right now, he’s changing our insurance coverage from State Farm to some other company, because State Farm is involved in ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. A good website to find out about this is ALEC Exposed. In brief, it’s a corporate-funded group in which global corporations and state politicians vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws that govern our rights. It offers a smorgasbord of right-wing legislation, which has been made into law in many states, unfortunately Wisconsin where I live among them.


    • Thanks for your comment, Nancy! I give you much credit here. I think it is easy to ignore the issues – ignorance is bliss right? It truly is difficult to stay on top of what is happening in companies and demanding justice.

      I have not heard of ALEC Exposed – I’ll be sure to check it out. Thanks for the tip!



    and that’s not even asking about the conditions the chickens were raised in or the amount of hormones and antibiotics they were fed in their short unhappy lives.


    • Such an important point, Carol! Thank you for sharing this….I have not seen this before. 56 ingredients, how disturbing! I was a vegetarian for a short time – about a year – and went back to meat eating because of health issues. I try to limit my intake because of these ethical issues, but honestly wish I could commit to a vegan lifestyle. I just don’t have the discipline. What a poor excuse!



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