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Spicy controversy over pro-marriage chicken chain

Published: Thursday, Feb. 3 2011 1:09 p.m. MST

Dan Cathy

Chick-fil-A

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A family-owned, fast-food-chicken-chain is continuing to gain attention for its proposed lunch donation to a pro-marriage seminar.

Chick-fil-A — which began as a small diner in Atlanta in 1946 and now has more than 1,500 restaurants across the country — is facing sharp criticism from gay-rights advocates about a decision to provide sandwiches and brownies for a day-and-a-half-long conference on Feb. 11 and 12 called, "The Art of Marriage — Getting to the Heart of God's Design."

The conference is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which has a mission to "strengthen families by restoring to public life the traditional, foundational principles and values essential for the well-being of society," according to its website. The conference promises to "help couples apply what the Bible teaches about marriage in a powerful way."

With such a pro-family, pro-traditional marriage stance, the Pennsylvania Family Institute has been heavily criticized for its position against homosexuality, and now Chick-fil-A is under the same attack.

Critics are labeling those who eat at the restaurant "anti-gay," and gay-student groups on several college campuses have tried boycotting the chicken chain, including students at Indiana University at South Bend, who succeeded in getting the chicken sandwiches and milkshakes removed from school food services for several weeks. However, administrators recently reviewed the suspension and returned the chicken to campus.

In response to the clamor, Chick-fil-A president and COO Dan Cathy issued a video statement in which he proclaimed that "heart-felt hospitality is at the core of Chick-fil-A," and that they serve and value all people.

He also reiterated that it's not uncommon for franchise operators around the country to provide food for various community events, businesses and civic groups without endorsing the group's agendas.

Yet a pro-marriage program seems to fall in line with Chick-fil-A's values. The Christian-based chain is closed on Sundays and has always valued marriage, Cathy said in his statement. The company's foundation, WinShape Foundation, was founded by Cathy's parents, Truett and Jeannette Cathy, to help strengthen marriages, children and families through Christian-based principles.

While many are quick to criticize,other individuals and groups are rallying behind the "courageous corporation," stating that other organizations spend millions of dollars each year to promote anti-child and anti-Biblical messages, and this is simply an expression from the other side.

sisraelsen@desnews.com

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