Is Chick-fil-A Unsafe for Catholic Schools?

Are Catholic campuses made less safe for LGBTQ students when Chick-fil-A outlets are present? According to some students, the answer to this question is a clear “yes.” This spring, disputes over the fast food chain erupted at both Duquesne University and Fordham University.

The popular fast-food chain has become synonymous with anti-LGBTQ issues since 2012 when it was learned that its CEO, Dan Cathy, spoke out strongly against marriage equality and the chain’s foundation had donated millions of dollars to oppose same-gender marriage initiatives.

chick-fil-a-secret-menu-mealAt Duquesne, the Student Government Association passed a resolution asking administrators to reconsider opening a Chick-fil-A on campus. The resolution was prompted by concerns from Lambda, a gay-straight alliance. Rachel Coury, the group’s president, told campus newspaper The Duke:

“‘I’ve tried very hard within the last semester and a half to promote this safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community. . .So I fear that with the Chick-fil-A being in Options that maybe people will feel that safe place is at risk.'”

Coury and her peers in Lambda are concerned because of Chick-fil-A’s ties to, in her words, “specifically anti-gay organizations” like Focus on the Family and the now defunct Exodus International. According to the company, it no longer funds groups with social-political agendas, instead focusing on youth and education initiatives.

University spokesperson Bridget Fare countered the Student Government and Lambda claims by saying student reactions are overall quite positive and that the company “has assured [Duquesne] that they do not discriminate.”

As an aside, Donald Trump, Jr. attacked the Duquesne students in a tweet, saying: “Luckily these students wont likely have to tackle issues more stressful than a yummy chicken sandwich in their lives… Oh Wait #triggered”.

At Fordham, University administrators rejected a proposed Chick-fil-A because of negative student reactions. Campus groups, including the Rainbow Alliance and United Student Government, were consulted, according to campus newspaper Fordham Observer. Concerns were expressed about not only the company’s LGBT-negative record, but diet-based problems tied to a fast food chain.

In a move to quell negative responses, Chick-fil-A offered to partner with Rainbow Alliance for on campus programs. This was roundly rejected by the Alliance’s membership with Co-President Renata Francesco saying, “[W]e’re not going to partner with an institution, a corporation that has so strongly supported other institutions that work to destabilize and demolish movements for queer equity.”

The administration’s decision to reject Chick-fil-A is not necessarily being celebrated at Fordham. Students have been critical of the University’s failure to provide transgender-inclusive accommodations. Roberta Munoz, co-president of the Rainbow Alliance, said, “I don’t want to pat them on the back. You can’t say ‘Oh you’re such a great ally’ when there’s still so many issues with our queer students. Like great, love it, but keep going.”

While not condoning the corporation’s policies, I think what students should consider is what is how Catholic schools should prioritize their efforts to provide LGBT supports. Chicken sandwiches seem far less pressing than the need for gender-neutral restrooms. Keeping perspective will help strengthen student efforts by focusing resources and not allowing school officials to easily dismiss students’ demands.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June ??, 2017

 

 

ALL ARE WELCOME: Memo to Cardinal George on How to Show Respect for LGBT People

 

Cardinal Francis George

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature  which examines how Catholic faith communities can become more inclusive of LGBT people and issues.  At the end of this posting, you can find the links to previous posts in this series.

Yesterday, we posted about Chicago Cardinal Francis George’s foray into the Chick-Fil-A controversy.  In his blog post about the Chicago mayor’s comments about the fast-food chain, George made the following statement:

“Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.”

Indeed there are.  For over three decades, New Ways Ministry has promoted the many ways that church institutions can respect LGBT people.  While supporting marriage equality laws is one such way, there are certainly lots of other things, short of supporting marriage equality, w hich church institutions can do to promote respect for LGBT people.

Here’s an initial list of some suggestions for Cardinal George and other church leaders who are serious about displaying such respect:

1) Institute anti-bullying programs  and gay-straight alliances into all Catholic schools.

2) Speak out in support of LGBT people when a hate crime occurs.

3) Establish formal dialogues with LGBT Catholics and family members of LGBT people.

4) Set up water stations for the local Gay Pride Parade at Catholic institutions along the route.

5) Better yet, march in the local Gay Pride Parade and have a welcoming booth at Gay Pride Festivals.

6) Preach positively about the lives and holiness of LGBT people.

7) Include LGBT issues in ongoing education for priests and diocesan personnel.

8) Develop an anti-discrimination policy for all parishes and diocesan institutions.

9) Set up a grievance procedure/program for LGBT who are discriminated against in Catholic institutions.

10) Visit LGBT institutions and organizations in the area  to learn about the lives and reality of LGBT people.

11) Add explicit welcomes to LGBT people in mission statements of all church institutions

12) Insert a positive segment about homosexuality and gender identity into diocesan-sponsored programs on sexuality and human development for adults and teens.

13) Make sure LGBT people and culture are part of diocesan multi-cultural and diversity programs.

14) Pray publicly for the rights, lives, and well-being of LGBT people.

15) Lobby for legislation that protects the lives and rights of LGBT people.

16) Establish a diocesan office for LGBT ministry that will develop programs and resources for LGBT people, their families, and pastoral ministers.

17) Speak out on human rights abuses against LGBT people around the world.

18) Institute support groups for LGBT priests, religious men and women, and lay pastoral workers.

19) Assist the “coming out” processes of young people by providing them with appropriate and supportive resources and materials.

20) Help all Catholics deal with homophobia and prejudice by establishing educational programs that aim to eradicate these attitudes.

Do you have any further suggestions?  Please add them in the “Comments” section for this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Previous posts in the ALL ARE WELCOME series:

Say the Words, December 14, 2011

All in the Family , January 2, 2012

At Notre Dame, Does Buying In Equal Selling Out? , January 25, 2012

A Priest With An Extravagant Sense of Welcome,  February 13, 2012

Going Beyond the Boundaries, April 11, 2012

St. Nicholas Parish Celebrates 10 Years of LGBT Ministry, May 24, 2012

When Homophobes Attack, June 7, 2012

An Open Door Policy for Catholic Schools, July 15, 2012

 

Chicago’s Cardinal Becomes Embroiled in Chick-Fil-A Controversy

 

The controversy over Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy’s public remarks against marriage equality have spilled over into the Catholic Church.  When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel commented that the fast food chain’s values are not Chicago values, the city’s Cardinal Francis George, responded with criticism of these comments.

The Chicago Tribune reports on George’s words:

“ ‘Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago,’ George wrote on the Archdiocese of Chicago’sblog Sunday. ‘I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval. Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city?’

George went on to write: ‘Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry. … Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.’ “

Clearly, George has twisted the mayor’s words.  It is certainly within a mayor’s prerogative to identify a city’s values.  Nothing in Emanuel’s statement indicated that he was requiring all citizens to adopt those values, as George suggests.

Coming to Emanuel’s defense in this argument was Catholic Chicago Alderman Nick Moreno, who plans to prevent the fast food chain from opening a second store in Chicago.  He was sharply critical of George’s comments:

“ ‘It’s unfortunate that the cardinal, as often happens, picks parts of the Bible and not other parts,’ said Moreno, who added that he was raised Catholic in western Illinois, attended a Catholic grade school and was an altar boy. Moreno said he now occasionally attends church.

“ ‘The Bible says many things,’ Moreno said. ‘For the cardinal to say that Jesus believes in this, and therefore we all must believe in this, I think is just disingenuous and irresponsible. The God I believe in is one about equal rights, and to not give equal rights to those that want to marry, is in my opinion un-Christian.’ ”

“Moreno also called the cardinal’s reference in the blog to a fictional Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities ‘hyperbole and rhetoric.’

“Moreno noted the church scandal surrounding pedophilia among priests, questioning George’s right to the ‘moral high ground on equal rights.’ ”

“Moreno, who has called gay marriage the civil rights issue of our time, also said the mayor and he are not trying to force their values on anyone, but rather to ensure equal rights.”

While Moreno’s remarks about George’s comments are spot on,and while his support of marriage equality is admirable, unfortunately, he is pursuing a misguided direction by trying to prevent Chick-Fil-A from opening a second store in Chicago. Free speech and free enterprise are dearly held American values, and no one should be punished by the government because of expressing an opinion, regardless how odious such an opinion may be.  Such punitive behavior is as wrong as when Church officials fire employees for expressing opinions that disagree with the church’s hierarchy.

Instead of regulating the company punitively, people who disagree with Chick-Fil-A’s president’s remarks on marriage equality would do better to express their dissatisfaction by boycotting the franchise.

The same punitive theme was expressed by Washington, DC’s Mayor Vincent Gray.  The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper reports:

“Not to be outdone, Washington DC’s mayor Vincent Gray said Chick-fil-A was hawking ‘hate chicken.’

“Mr. Gray, under investigation for election irregularities, said he would try and block further Chick-fil-A outlets in the nation’s capital. “

Interestingly, the only Chick-Fil-A restaurant currently in DC is on the campus of Catholic University of America.  When students return it to campus at the end of the summer, it will be interesting to see if they choose to boycott this restaurant or not.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry