Thousands flock to support Chick-fil-A

Published 8:11 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cars line up in the drive-through of the North Main Street Chick-fil-A on Wednesday during lunchtime. Many diners said they were there to support the company president’s stance on family values.

Thousands lined up on Wednesday to support Chick-fil-A, the chicken restaurant whose president said in an interview last month that he supports “the Biblical definition of the family unit.”

Suffolk’s North Main Street location, which typically does brisk business during lunchtime, kept up its usual noon-hour tempo all day long, judging by the number of cars in the drive-through. During the lunch and dinner hours, traffic spilled into the parking lot of the shopping center surrounding it and backed up onto North Main Street.

Most dine-in customers had to park in the shopping center lot and walk to the restaurant, weaving between cars in the drive-through line. The interior of the restaurant was standing-room only during lunchtime.

Email newsletter signup

“This is about families,” said customer Rusty Bouton, standing outside about 12:30 p.m. and surveying the cars attempting to navigate their way into line. “You can see the turnout. That’s what the majority of people feel.”

The restaurant chain was bashed for president and chief executive officer Dan Cathy’s comments in an interview with The Baptist Press last month, where he said the company supports Biblical principles.

“We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families,” Cathy was quoted as saying in the story. “We are very much committed to that.”

Many took Cathy’s comments as an assault on gay rights. Mayors in Boston and Chicago vowed to block Chick-fil-A restaurants from locating in their cities.

In response, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used Facebook to unofficially declare Wednesday “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” and urge those who agree with Cathy to eat at the restaurant.

“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,” he wrote on the Facebook page promoting the movement. “Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we’re considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers and intolerant.”

Suffolk residents responded to the message in droves.

“I don’t usually eat out very often, but this was something I couldn’t pass up,” Judy Chapman said as she waited for her family outside the restaurant. “I think too many people are afraid to speak out, and I support Chick-fil-A doing that.”

David Sexton, pastor of Crosspointe Free Will Baptist Church, brought about 30 young people to the restaurant for lunch. Most were members of a youth group from North Carolina that is visiting to help the church with improvements on the property.

“We eat here all the time, but we wanted to come and support them because of their stand on gay marriage,” he said. “We appreciate their stand for closing on Sunday as well.”

Managers at the Suffolk restaurant would not answer questions from the media, but instead handed out a prepared statement from Steve Robinson, executive vice president of marketing for Chick-fil-A.

“The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender,” he said in the statement. “Our goal is simple: to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

Despite a statement by Cathy in the Baptist Press interview that indicated the restaurant intends to “stay the course,” Robinson’s statement said the company’s intent going forward is “to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”