Man, I used to love Chick-Fil-A’s breakfast burritos. I’d pick one up most mornings on the way to work. I haven’t had one for over two years, though, because I found out they gave money to fund anti-gay organizations. Now, they have every right as a business to do that (and, given their history, I was zero surprised), and I, as a consumer, have every right to avoid spending my money where I know even a tiny fraction of a penny will go to funding a cause I hate. I stopped giving my old clothes to the Salvation Army for the same reason. I don’t have as much money as I’d like to give to support my gay friends and family, but the least I can do is avoid funding their opponents.
I made this decision, as I said, about two years ago, so my reaction to all the recent buzz has been largely amusement. I’m glad more people know where Chick-Fil-A donates their profits, so more people can make the same informed decision I did (and plenty of anti-gay people are motivated to spend more money there now, for exactly the same reasons, and while I have issue with their being anti-gay in the first place, I have no issue with their spending money at an establishment that supports their values.) All the rest of it: what Dan Cathy said, various mayors and city officials making legally toothless pronouncements that Chick-Fil-A isn’t welcome in their cities, calls for boycotts and demonstrations and for conservative heterosexists to buy Chick-Fil-A for all their church events (which, as a former insider, I can tell you they were pretty much doing anyway)… that’s all distraction. Business owners can think whatever they want, but it’s their actions that will affect how I spend their money: and particularly the meaning their actions (such as donating some profits to certain organizations) give to my actions (contributing to that pool of profits.)
As my good friend Mike has pointed out, focusing all this tribalistic frenzy of opinion on Chick-Fil-A is distracting us from an opportunity: to be more aware of where corporations spend their money, so that we can make better-informed decisions about where to spend our own. Companies craft their PR very carefully, knowing that whether people perceive a company’s values to be aligned with their own will have a significant effect on spending decisions. (Anyone know of a place where we can find out exactly where a company directs their charitable donations? A five-minute Google search gave me nuthin, but I realize my methodology may not have been stringent.) As much as we’re able, we should be attentive not just to what a company says it values, but to where it spends its money, how it treats its employees, and how much it participates in human and environmental exploitation. And as individual consumers, we need to own our own values and decide what is and isn’t worth changing our consumption habits around.