My temper was recently set off early on the morning of Friday, December 11th, as I stopped at a local Chick-fil-A for breakfast.

What follows is the email correspondence between me and Chick-fil-A, starting with my complaint as entered on the contact form of Chick-fil-A's web site.

From: me
To: Chick-fil-A.Cares@na.ko.com
Subject: Chick-fil-A Web Form Message
I understand that Chick-fil-a is a business founded by and largely operated by Christians. This already annoyed me, due to the fact that your restaurants are closed on Sundays, but I've given it a pass until this past Friday when simply doing business with Christians crossed over into being proselytized at. Apparently, Chick-fil-A is sponsoring the pre-show of 3 services being put on by Waters Edge Church and felt that it was appropriate to include a flyer for this with my breakfast order. Not being a Christian, I was deeply offended by this assumption that I would care for such an event, at which I would presumably be told how I would burn in hellfire if I do not accept Jesus as my personal lord and saviour. I am disgusted that you would allow this sort of insult to occur and will no longer patronize any Chick-fil-a establishments.



Now, I have no problem doing business with Christians, and while the letter above may seem a little reactionary, I am simply tired of being preached at, so this flyer incident just got under my skin at exactly the wrong time. After firing off this angry email and assuming I would receive no reply (or an automated reply, if any at all), I received the following email on December 17th.

From: Chick-fil-A.Cares@na.ko.com
To: me
Subject: RE: Chick-fil-A Web Form Message
Thank you for taking the time to contact Chick-fil-A. You are very important to us, and we appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us regarding a flier you received with your recent take-out order from the Yoder Plaza Restaurant.
Because most Chick-fil-A Restaurants are independently operated, I have forwarded your correspondence to Kevin Harrison, Operator of the Yoder Plaza Restaurant, so that he is aware of your issue.
Again, thank you for your time and interest in Chick-fil-A.



Close to my original assumption, a pretty generic reply, even though not automated. I was a little surprised that they even mentioned the owner's name, as I doubted he would even reply after reading this. I imagined that he would glance over it, chuckle/sigh and think to himself, "Have fun burning in Hell, heathen." I had almost forgotten about the whole thing after almost two weeks, but I received the following email this morning.

From: Yoder.Plaza.FSU@chick-fil-a.com
To: me
Subject: Chick-fil-A
I'm truly sorry you were offended by the flyer announcing our partnership with Water's Edge Church this holiday season. It certainly is not my intent to offend my customers. Often we partner with a variety of organizations who, we feel, do good things in our community. We partner with schools, clubs, businesses and churches throughout the year. Again my intention is to support positive activity in our community and not to proselytize through my business. I realize that some of our partnerships and the materials we use to advertise these partnerships will not be of interest to some of our customers. Many however appreciate the information.
I admit that at times I struggle to find a balance of how to separate religion and business. A couple of years ago I got reprimanded by a couple of my customers for having Santa in my restaurants. These people happened to be Christians and were offended that Chick-fil-A would have any involvement with Santa. They informed me that I should put nativity scenes in my restaurants and get rid of "all the Santa stuff". I didn't do that because I knew that would be offensive to some customers. I reviewed the artwork for the Water's Edge partnership and I didn't think it would offend anyone. I obviously was wrong about this and I apologize for offending you.
Although I can't make any promises that something like this will not happen again, be assured that your feedback will be on my mind.
I appreciate your honest words and I respect you for your stance and commitment to what you believe.

Sincerely,

Kevin Harrison
Owner/Operator
Chick-fil-A Yoder Plaza
Chick-fil-A Victory Boulevard
kevin@catercfa.com



I was surprised by his apology, but also a bit annoyed by some of Harrison's points, so I wrote back.

Mr. Harrison,

First, let me say that I appreciate your apology. I certainly realize that no one is capable of pleasing all people at all times. Be that as it may, after reading the rest of your response to my original complaint, I would like to further clarify my point.

You claim to partner with organizations that do good things in our community. What good does Water's Edge Church do for our community? I do not actually expect an answer to this question, as it is my view that no church ever does any real good for any community, as they ultimately serve to divide communities and stir up hatred against those that are not within their fold. However, I would appreciate an answer to this next question. Would you ever partner with an atheist organization? Hypothetically, if the Atheist Alliance International organization were to hold it's annual convention in Hampton instead of Los Angeles, would you sponsor any part of this event and/or pass out flyers for it? If Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion and many other fine works of non-fiction) were to give a talk hosted at CNU, would you sponsor any part of this event? What about events for the Secular Student Alliance, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Humanist Association, etc.? All of these groups support civil rights, not just for atheists and agnostics, but for all people, regardless of ethnicity, creed, gender, or sexual preference. Surely, we can both agree that supporting civil rights for all people is something good for our community, right?

I have no problem with your business partnering with any school, club, business or even church. If you support what they do, then partner with them. Of course, I realize that not every partnership will be of interest to every customer, that's why I think that you should just put up a sign, or even have a stack of flyers for people to pick up on their own or simply ignore sitting next to the registers inside the restaurant. When you start passing out flyers, that crosses the line into proselytizing, and that's where I have a problem. I doubt that you would partner with any of the aforementioned atheist / skeptic / humanist groups, but if you did, I'm sure you'd get a lot more customers complaining if you started handing out flyers for such events, especially if they already nit-pick over displays of Santa or cows wearing Santa hats.

Regarding your Santa vs. Nativity analogy, I simply see no comparison to the flyer issue. Sure, you'll get fundamentalist Christians foaming at the mouth over a Santa display, but they're like that wherever they go, with every holiday display (Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, Independence Day, etc.), and with total disregard for the Constitutional separation of church and state as they push prayer into City Council meetings, displays of the Ten Commandments on courthouse lawns, and nativity scenes on the grounds of capitol buildings. Whether they like it or not, Santa is a part of our capitalist American celebration of Christmas. Nativity scenes are also part of Christmas tradition, and I would have no problem with nativity scene on display in any location, as long as it's not government property. Being a private business, you'd be in no such danger of violating the Constitutional separation of church and state with a nativity, so have one if you wish.

Back to your Water's Edge Church partnership, I was not offended by the "artwork" on the flyer, nor did I ever say that I was, so I don't see why you even mention it. No, as stated in my original complaint, "I was offended at the assumption that I would care for such an event, at which I would presumably be told how I would burn in hellfire if I do not accept Jesus as my personal lord and saviour." As you can see by this statement, the artwork on the flyer itself was not the issue, it was the message of what such an event would entail to someone not of that faith, or in my case, no faith at all.


In Reason,
Aiden



In the end, this may all be a pointless endeavour, but I felt like I had to make my point/views known.

Views: 297

Tags: chick-fil-a, christian, christmas, church, flyer, humanist, insult, jesus, proselytize, secular

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Comment by Aiden on May 6, 2010 at 9:37am
Chance, how is that even legal? The bit about owning a Chick-fil-A store... I guess franchising contracts aren't held up to the same laws about discriminatory hiring/firing.

It's very likely that you weren't fired because your boss was afraid of a discrimination lawsuit. I don't know about Florida, but here in Virginia, it's illegal to fire someone based on religious belief. Chick-fil-A is not a church, so they wouldn't be able to use that loophole.
Comment by Aiden on March 31, 2010 at 3:37pm
We'd have to get organized enough to start one... good luck with that!
Comment by Jo Jerome on March 31, 2010 at 3:29pm
I'd love to live in an Atheist community.
Comment by Aiden on March 26, 2010 at 3:33pm
True, but at least we have our pockets of resistance.
Comment by Aiden on March 26, 2010 at 3:18pm
Ave Maria, FL ... I remember hearing about that. I'm not bothered by it. Let them go and live in their own little insulated communities of concentrated stupidity.
Comment by Jo Jerome on December 28, 2009 at 8:52pm
I have to applaud the owner. While his brainwashing is still hard at work, he is doing as well as can be expected for a Christian owner of a Christian company.

Of course the thought of offending non-Christians didn't cross their minds. I honestly don't think Christians like this are sitting in groups discussing, "Ooh, how can we really piss off the non-believers." Part of being raised Christian is being raised that Christian is the accepted norm. On TV shows, the token Jew happily participates in the festivities with their Christian friends. "Our faith is all about happiness and good. Who can possibly be offended by that?"

It sounds like what you've done Aiden is planted the seed that there is indeed a contingent of American society that doesn't think so highly of such exclusionary practices. Especially in asking him if he'd sponsor an Atheist event.

I say you've totally done your good deed for the holiday season!
Comment by Aiden on December 28, 2009 at 9:51am
Indeed, Matt. I was definitely caught off-guard by the candidness of Harrison's last response. Although I did not like his answer regarding the secular groups I had mentioned, I do appreciate his honesty. Also, I hope that he is sincere in his claim that he'll voice my (our) concerns in future decisions.
Comment by It's just Matt on December 28, 2009 at 9:34am
While I am surprised the owner responded, I am even more surprised he did it honestly.
We may not agree with his mode of thinking and decisions, but at least he is forthcoming with how he runs his business.
I doubt he would attempt to address a single customer's concerns just to save face, even if he doesn't quite understand that customer's reasons. And he admitted that he wouldn't promote or partner with any secular group, most would not have answered that.
Comment by Aiden on December 28, 2009 at 7:59am
This morning, at 8:39am, I have received another response from Kevin Harrison:

From: Kevin Harrison
To: me
Subject: Chick-fil-A

Thank you for your response last week. I thought about your e-mail over the weekend and I believe you wanted me to respond.
So here is my response to a couple of your points:

With respect to the Water’s Edge event: I did not think the partnership itself or getting an ad about attending a Christmas Eve service would offend. Attending Christmas Eve services is a tradition for many and we felt that many of our customers would be interested in this event. In fact as we discussed doing this no one was raising a flag that said “Wait. We may offend someone who is not a Christian.” The thought did not cross our minds. After this encounter with you I will raise that flag in the future. I want my business to be inviting to anyone. I am now aware of your passionate beliefs about the church and what you felt you might have heard at the event and I assume there are others that feel the same.

In response to your other question about partnering with the groups you mentioned, I would not. With the Christian background and reputation of our company, you are right, many of our customers would complain about such a partnership. I see your point and I thank you for your perspective, it will influence my future decision making.

I have appreciated hearing your views.

Thank You,

Kevin Harrison
Comment by Aiden on December 27, 2009 at 1:47pm
R, you are correct, I was holding back quite a bit on that reply. Mainly because I want to see how/if he'll respond to such an open challenge. I had the same impression of his reply, it's a little too guarded and measured to be sincere.

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