The discussion surrounding “religious freedom” along with the so-called “War on Christianity” has gained a lot of traction on right-wing media and from evangelical pulpits. Donald Trump has taken credit for people being able to say “Merry Christmas” again (like no one ever couldn’t) although his position on moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem has led directly to Christmas celebrations being cancelled in Bethlehem. That’s right – Bethlehem, the town that is the epicenter of the Christmas story, will not be celebrating Christmas this year.
The Supreme Court will be ruling this year on the lawsuit involving Masterpiece Cakes, a bakery that refused to provide a custom-made wedding cake for a same-sex couple because they claim it violated their “religious” freedom to discriminate against legal, same-sex weddings Former Georgia governor Lester Maddox made a similar argument that the 1965 Civil Rights Act violated his rights as a property owner to decide who he would or would not serve in the Atlanta restaurant. He lost his legal battle and ended up closing his restaurant.
But there are few businesses as closely identified with Christian values than the sandwich chain Chick-Fil-A, which opened its first restaurant in Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta in 1967, by a Southern Baptist man named Truett Cathy. But Cathy made a significant and critical business decision when he decided to open a store in a mall. Chick-Fil-A would not be open on Sunday. This came as a direct result of his Christian faith. Everyone, and I mean everyone, said he would not succeed if he failed to take advantage of the traffic generated in the mall on Sundays.
At the time, Georgia was just a few years past the era of the “blue laws” which forced businesses to close on Sundays, with rare exceptions. In fact, it was not until 2011 that retail liquor stores were permitted to open on Sundays in most cities and counties in Georgia per Reuters.
But Cathy’s decision not to open on Sunday’s is different in significant ways from the Masterpiece Cake people. He was not forcing anybody to do anything. He was not forcing his employees to work. He was closing his business to everyone – not just specific people. And he was the one who stood to lose money because of his decision. In fact, Cathy had been closing his business on Sunday since he opened his first restaurant, The Dwarf House, in Hapeville, Georgia in 1946.
It should go without saying that not only did the original Chick-Fil-A store thrive, but the Cathy family now owns one of the most successful fast-food companies in the country. But they have come under fire from various sources for their “values.” Truett Cathy’s son Dan Cathy, who now runs the company, came under a great deal of fire when he spoke out against same-sex marriage. Although the company never discriminated in hiring practices or whom they served, here were protests against the company and two years later Dan Cathy admitted that he “had made a mistake” getting involved in a political debate and that in future he would stick to selling chicken.
This controversy led to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to oppose the opening of a Chick-Fil-A store in that city saying “Chick-Fil-A values are not Chicago values.” Source: Politico
The people stranded at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Sunday might disagree with Mayor Emanuel. Chick-Fil-A opened their business to deliver food – on Sunday – to stranded passengers at the airport. Not just employees showed up to help either. Dan Cathy was on site as well.
— Atlanta Airport (@ATLairport) December 18, 2017
This is not the first time Chick-Fil-A has been open for business on Sunday either.
Following the mass shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016 Time Magazine reported that Chick-Fil-A employees showed up for work on Sunday. According to Time “Employees provided food to people who were donating blood and to law enforcement officers who were part of the response team.” That’s right, Chick-Fil-A disregarded its long-standing commitment to closing on Sundays to help victims of a shooting at a gay nightclub.
Did Chick-Fil-A abandon its Christian values by opening up for business on a Sunday? Absolutely not. They were following them by helping their neighbors in need, as taught by Jesus, whether it was the Sabbath or not.
If those are the “values” that people like Rahm Emanuel rejected, it’s small wonder that Chicago is in the shape it is today.