Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Chick-fil-A chief to Brandon Baptists: Practice tenets of your faith at work

“We by all means want to serve the whole community,” said Dan Cathy, who greeted folks at First Baptist after his talk.

Courtesy of Dale Bliss

“We by all means want to serve the whole community,” said Dan Cathy, who greeted folks at First Baptist after his talk.

People sometimes call him the king of Jesus chicken.

Dan Cathy, president of the fast food chain Chick-fil-A, spoke to a group he referred to as "my Christian brothers and sisters" at First Baptist Church of Brandon last week. More than 600 people, I among them, attended the event.

The topic: applying biblical principles in the workplace.

"This idea of checking your faith at the door and then going on to work is not at all what Jesus wanted us to do," Cathy said early on in the talk.

"He said let your light shine on your men so that they see your good works, and," the chief joked, "taste your waffle fries."

Cathy had no qualms talking Scripture among friends, but admitted that not every crowd gets the same speech. To some, mixing God and poultry is a touchy subject, he said. And these days, being closed on Sundays is not the main complaint against Chick-fil-A.

For more than a year, Cathy has battled criticism from gay and lesbian advocacy groups that accuse Chick-fil-A of supporting organizations opposed to gay marriage, such as the Marriage & Family Legacy Fund and Focus on the Family. Chick-fil-A's charitable foundation, WinShape, reportedly donated to both organizations in 2009. Consequently, equal rights proponents nationwide have boycotted Chick-fil-A.

Cathy acknowledges that he personally believes marriage should remain between a man and a woman. Chick-fil-A as a company, though, does not have a stance on the issue, he said, addressing the controversy at the event.

The First Baptist crowd nodded approvingly as Cathy pointed to the company's mission statement, projected on a screen above him: To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

"Thank God 30 years ago we wrote this out," Cathy said. "We by all means want to serve the whole community when they come and eat with us."

As Cathy moved on, he asked audience members to turn their Bibles to Matthew 5:41. The verse commands going the extra mile to serve others. Cathy gave examples of Chick-fil-A workers taking umbrellas to women in the rain and offering freshly ground pepper to customers.

When Cathy spoke about his father, Truett Cathy, who opened the first Chick-fil-A in Hapeville, Ga., in 1946, he beamed with pride. Truett Cathy taught his son to study Scripture and implement it in his daily life. Now Dan Cathy is trying to do so without offending anyone, and as times change, it becomes more difficult.

I do not agree with everything Cathy believes. I do respect his openness. Just as his opponents have a right to deny him their business, he has a right to his religious beliefs. Toting the faith badge in an increasingly secular world takes guts. I think that is true for people of all faiths. Talk of God inherently brings division, and division hurts business.

For decades, Chick-fil-A has made a statement that puts values before profits. In 66 years, the restaurant has never opened on a Sunday. Now protesters want the chain pulled from college campuses.

I think liking Chick-fil-A and opposing gay marriage are two very different things.

"We're doing the best we can to try and apply biblical principles in the workplace and compete with McDonald's, Wendy's and the others that are out there," Cathy said in a sanctuary of his peers.

At First Baptist, Cathy appeared hurt by accusations that he supports hate. He has said financial donations made to the organizations in question were to support other programs, not to back any political agenda.

Chick-fil-A does not discriminate when hiring or selecting franchise owners, he has also said.

I think the comments comedian Wanda Sykes made on the Tonight Show best sum up the issue. When asked about the controversy, Sykes, a lesbian, said she responded to tweets telling her to boycott Chick-fil-A with a message from her belly, adding that when the lady behind the counter at Chick-fil-A starts calling her names, then that will be her last Chick-fil-A sandwich.

Sarah Whitman can be reached at (813) 661-2439 or [email protected]

Chick-fil-A chief to Brandon Baptists: Practice tenets of your faith at work 03/29/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 29, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Time to breakout out the Bucs fan's emergency kit?


    A fan in a throwback jersey waits for the start of a game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times
  2. Plan your weekend: Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, MarineQuest, Florida Orchestra pops in the park, rodeo


    Plan your weekend


    Music weekend: Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and Bruno Mars all in one weekend? We have a playlist of a weekend coming up. Thursday brings Bruno's sold-out 24K Magic World Tour to Amalie Arena. The next day brings the country power …

    Bill Clark and Danelle Dasouqi admire the chalk art on the side walk during the final day of the three day Chalk Art Festival in Clearwater Beach. JIM REED/STAFF
  3. Lightning approaches decision time for Mikhail Sergachev

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mikhail Sergachev had dinner with his host family from juniors Monday.

    The Lightning has to decide, as early as this weekend whether Mikhail Sergachev will stick in the NHL or return to juniors for another season. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  4. Tampa man charged in hit-and-run crash that killed bicyclist on I-4 exit ramp in Tampa


    TAMPA — A 44-year-old Tampa man was arrested and charged Wednesday in a hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist earlier in the day.

    Christopher Jerimiah Cole, 44, of Tampa was driving this silver Mercedes on Wednesday when it struck a bicyclist on the exit ramp from eastbound Interstate 4 to southbound U.S. 301, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Cole kept driving, troopers said. The bicyclist, a 45-year-old Brandon man, died at the scene. His name was not immediately released because troopers were working to notify his family. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Quarterbacks, head coach targeting Vernon Hargreaves; 'I'm not producing,' he says


    Eli Manning gathered his receivers together during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and informed them of the weakest link of the secondary he planned to target that afternoon.

    Quarterbacks this season have a 128.7 rating when targeting Vernon Hargreaves. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]