Patrons cite religious freedom, First Amendment at Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 1 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Customers stand in a long line at the Chick-fil-A in Columbus, Ga., Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. Chick-fil-A supporters are eating at restaurants in the chicken chain as the company continues to be criticized for an executive's comments about marriage and family.

Associated Press

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Customers flooded Chick-fil-A restaurants across the U.S. Wednesday to show their support for the fast food restaurant chain after president and COO Dan Cathy sparked controversy by repeating his views on the family during an interview with The Baptist Press.

"We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit," Cathy said. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

Although the words "gay marriage" did not appear in the interview, Cathy's remark that the company is "guilty as charged" when it comes to support for the traditional family, along with a radio interview, upset many and sparked calls for a boycott.

"I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,'" Cathy said in that interview. "I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino sent a letter saying, "(t)here is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it." Menino later had to retract that statement. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Chick-fil-A does not represent "Chicago values" and said it should invest elsewhere, and also later backed down.

Chicago alderman Proco Joe Moreno said Chick-fil-A could open in his area if he gets an explicit guarantee from the franchise owner that the owner won't support any groups with a political agenda, and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee said on Twitter that the closest Chick-fil-A was 40 miles away — and that the company shouldn't try to get any closer.

David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom said threats to deny businesses the right to operate based on the beliefs of their owners are not constitutional.

"The government shouldn't be in the business of threatening or punishing people for their thoughts or ideas — whether they are individuals or businesses themselves," Cortman said. "I think the irony here is that they are claiming this is an issue of freedom and civil rights, but they're actually the ones who would be violating the civil rights of Chick-fil-A not to allow them to open up their business simply because of their views."

In response to attacks against Chick-fil-A, Mike Huckabee dubbed Wednesday "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" and encouraged people to buy food there.

"The goal is simple," Huckabee wrote on the event Facebook page. "Let's affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, August 1."

Courtney Clem told ABC News she went to Chick-fil-A Wednesday to show her support for the First Amendment.

"We want to support their right to an opinion," Clem said. "I do support that opinion. And the right. Even if it was an opinion I disagreed with, I'd be here today . . . I think it's more about people frankly being offended that people are offended."

"Certainly everyone, including a city mayor, is entitled to their opinion, and people can vote with their pocketbooks by going somewhere else to eat their 'chikin,'" a Washington Times opinion piece said. "But what is happening here, again, is something our Founding Fathers tried to guard us against — government using its power to suppress viewpoints and expressions with which it disagrees . . . All Americans should stand with Chick-fil-A today, Republican, Democrat, conservative and liberal, Christians and non-Christians."

Nearly 600,000 supporters signed up to join with Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, while Twitter users reported long lines at restaurants across the U.S.

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