There has been a lot of hullabaloo in the press and on social media recently about Chick-fil-A. It seems CEO Dan Cathy is personally against the rights of homosexual Americans to be able to marry. Since this issue is so polarizing in America right now, certainly folks lined up on both sides of the issue to have an opinion about a corporate CEO being so open about not only his stance personally but to be so obvious about the way it influences his decision making as CEO of the company.
As pointed out in the Chicago Tribune, Cathy was quoted in the Baptist Press on July 16th as saying he espoused "the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
I've pointed out in other blog posts why Gay Marriage is an important moment for the Christian faith in the West, indeed for Religion in general. For that reason, it may not be a surprise that I would write an article calling for Dan Cathy to be removed as CEO of Chick-fil-A, but I assure you it is not for the reason you might think.
In fact, there is much about the Cathy family's legacy as business owners in modern America that I think is worthy of praise. There are desicions the leadership of the company adhere to that stem from the personal religious convictions of the leadership that make good business sense. For example, I'm sure it is not easy to justify not being open on Sundays to some who would point to all the money they are NOT making by being closed on that day.
But even if looked at from a non-religious point of view, one could say that there are potentially good reasons to make it a policy that franchise stores are all closed at least one day per week - reducing employee fatigue, cutting overhead costs, reducing turn-over, making shift scheduling easier... these are all reasons non-religious people could get behind a corporate decision that has an origin in religious adherence. This is a good example of how a person of faith can allow their religious convictions to inform good business practice in an acceptable way.
But what Dan Cathy has done by attempting to associate his Chick-fil-A brand with a stance on the question of the moral fortitude of legally allowing same-sex couples to marry is just bad business and any other company would recognize this and bring in new leadership, regardless of family ties or claimed religious affiliation. It is bad business because there is no way a non-religious person could observe a CEO try to make such sweeping claims about the people who work at his company and to infer that it does not infringe upon the rights of any of their customers, employees, or business partners and justify that it could be good for business.
I suppose it could be argued that the message resonates with a particular demographic they are trying to reach or that "no press is bad press." Those arguments are way on the outside and could probably be dismissed as good business if data could be shown about the numbers of customers lost vs. the loyalty of existing customers or new customers gained. Plus, they are all married to their first wives? Everyone in the company? That doesn't ring true with national divorce statistics at all.
Is it wrong for Alderman Moreno to deny Chick-fil-A a zoning change request? Some folks think so.
Similar actions are being taken in Boston and protests have been scheduled at chains nationwide.
Is it employment descrimination when a company dismisses consideration of a candidate simply because that candidate does not publicly claim to hold a particular religious belief? The elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about is that until somebody infringes upon Chick-fil-A's rights as a company and gets them on record refusing to consider a candidate for exactly that reason, we would never know if they were doing so.
The question isn't about what the company's official policy says, the question is about what kind of behavior the internal corporate culture germinates. Were women passed over for promotion in the past at certain companies as per policy or culture?
There are so many other reasons not to consider a candidate or to pass them over for promotion that it becomes easy to simply blame it on something else until a real viable challenge in public is found and such a case has not emerged. But who's job is it to set the tone of the culture of a company? Who else besides the CEO?
The question I keep coming back to is "what does Dan Cathy's personal view on gay marriage have to do with zoning rights for a franchise of his company?"
My answer? Everything. The CEO is the leader of a company - there is no "off the clock" time for these leaders. Statements they make in public are broadcast because of their leadership of the company. If Dan was just some guy who held this belief, we would never have heard about it on so many media platforms. We heard about it BECAUSE he is CEO and what he says in public media could be argued to be the same in impact and purpose inside the walls of the franchises as an internal memo.
If we had found such a memo, would the conversation be the same?
His statements send the same message to his subordinates - individuals who are homosexual do not deserve the same rights as individuals who are heterosexual. Leadership sets the tone for an entire corporate culture and the culture tone set by Dan Cathy's remarks open the doors for individual store owners to feel empowered to perceive certain Americans as less deserving of rights than others. That is bad business. That is not best practice. That makes no business sense outside a religious context and that is why it is different than simply closing on Sunday, and that is why Christian values or no, Dan Cathy needs to go as CEO of Chick-fil-A.