Late in 2015, a news report went viral through social media about how McDonald’s became the first fast food chain to openly endorse Christianity. It was big news for many, because the liberal vs. conservative debate regarding religious views and business has spilled into all types of industries. And the food service industry has not been exempted from the battle.
Here are some examples of some controversial religious actions connected with the food service and fast food industry:
Last year, this fast food chain opened a branch in New York, and thousands of people availed the chicken items of this Atlanta-based chain. That seemed to surprise a lot of people, because New York has a very liberal reputation and Chick-fil-A had acquired an anti-gay reputation.
The brouhaha started with a 2012 interview of CEO Dan Cathy. The Chick-fil-A head admitted that he operated the company according to what he called “biblical principles”. And then he added that he opposed gay marriage.
These statements touched off a social media storm, with pro-gay activists denouncing the company while anti-gay conservatives lauded the chain’s stance on the divisive issue. Some sponsors cut ties with the fast food chain, while other activists staged protests. Meanwhile, many conservatives demonstrated their appreciation by driving record sales for a single day for the company.
This burger chain out West is also owned by a deeply Christian founder, and for decades it has printed citations of Bible verses on different bits of packaging. For example, a soft drink cup would display “John 3:16” but it doesn’t contain the actual Bible passage. Many Christians are already familiar with this passage, as it says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The wrappers of the single burger and the cheeseburger are printed with “Revelations 3:20”. Find the passage in the Bible, and it reads: “Behold: I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” And for the milkshake, it’s “Proverbs 3:5”, which says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
But that’s the extent of the company’s religious display, and it has not issued any statements regarding issues such as gay marriage and abortion.
This was founded by Tom Monaghan, who’s a firm Catholic and who now leads the Ave Maria Foundation. For many years he used his own private funds to sponsor conservative causes such as anti-abortion. Back in 1988, the National Organization of Women led a country-wide boycott of the company as a protest his activities. Many regional chapters of the organization followed the move for several years.
Monaghan sold off his controlling stake in the chain way back in 1998, and he continues to champion conservative stances such as the opposition to abortion.
This hamburger chain was founded by Carl Karcher, who also participated in Catholic-based philanthropy and who was also fiercely opposed to gay rights and abortion. Like Monaghan, he only used his own money and not the company coffers to fund his political pursuits.
He was a leading force in the “Briggs Initiative” in 1978, which was a ballot proposition in California at the time that called for a ban on gays and lesbians working in the public schools of the state. In response, the company was targeted for boycotts by activists for gay and abortion rights.
It’s hard to imagine for people today to understand what the big deal was regarding the sexuality of Ellen DeGeneres. But in the late 1990s when the sitcom “Ellen” was popular, the main character played by the actress came out as a lesbian. In response, Wendy’s pulled its advertising from the program. The gay and lesbian community fought back with a boycott.
However, in 2006 the company did announce that it would alter its nondiscrimination policy. This was about 4 years after the chain’s founder passed away. There would be new written protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity for all of their employees. This amendment gained the approval of the LGBT-rights groups.
In 1990, a group called the Christian Leaders for Responsible Television (CLeaR-TV), which was affiliated with the American Family Association, called for a Burger King boycott. The group accused the company of sponsoring primetime shows that had too much sex, violence, and profanity.
The burger company fought back with a newspaper ad campaign that firmly stated its position as a supporter of American traditional values. The two sides ended their conflict, but Burger King was adamant in stressing that the boycott did not alter their media-buying strategies.
What about you? Does a food chain’s stance of religious issues affect your dining choices? Or is it still about the food?