NASHVILLE, Tenn. Former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says he is "incensed" at the way Chick-fil-A has been treated in recent days, and he is launching a nationwide Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day for Aug. 1, urging people to visit the restaurant that day or to make their support known via social media.
The company has been the source of criticism and the object of calls for boycotts since its president, Dan Cathy, was quoted in a newspaper article and in a radio interview as standing up for the biblical definition of marriage.
On July 23 the Jim Henson Company makers of children's shows such as "The Muppets," "Sid the Science Kid," "Dinosaur Train" and "Pajanimals" announced it would not partner with Chick-fil-A again in the future. The Jim Henson Company, at various times, has supplied the toys for the restaurant's kids' meals.
"The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors," a statement read. "Lisa Henson, our CEO is personally a strong supporter of gay marriage and has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-Fil-A to GLAAD [Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation]."
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino went as far as saying he would work to block a Chick-fil-A from opening in the city. Although there are 1,600 Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide, Massachusetts so far has only two. Gay marriage is legal in the state.
"Chick-fil-A doesn't belong in Boston," Menino said according to the Boston Herald. "You can't have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against the population. We're an open city, we're a city that's at the forefront of inclusion. ... And we're not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the [expletive] the name is, on our Freedom Trail."
The Freedom Trail is a path through the streets of Boston highlighting historic sites from the time of the Revolutionary War.
Huckabee says Chick-fil-A's supporters need to speak up. He has launched a website, www.ISupportChickFilA.com, where people can "RSVP" that they intend to participate Aug. 1.
"No one is being asked to make signs, speeches, or openly demonstrate," Huckabee wrote on his Facebook page. "The goal is simple: 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 on Wednesday, August 1. 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.
"This effort is not being launched by the Chick-Fil-A company and no one from the company or family is involved in proposing or promoting it."
Huckabee concluded, "There's no need for anyone to be angry or engage in a verbal battle. Simply affirm appreciation for a company run by Christian principles by showing up on Wednesday, August 1 or by participating online tweeting your support or sending a message on Facebook."
Huckabee said he has "been incensed at the vitriolic assaults" on Chick-fil-A since Cathy made his comments.
"The Cathy family, let by Chick Fil-A founder Truett Cathy, are a wonderful Christian family who are committed to operating the company with Biblical principles and whose story is the true American success story. ... The Chick-Fil-A company refuses to open on Sundays so that their employees can go to church if they wish. Despite the pressure from malls, airports, and the business world to open on Sundays, they still don't. They treat customers and employees with respect and dignity."
Asked about the company's support of the traditional family, Cathy said in the Biblical Recorder story, "Well, guilty as charged."
"We are very much supportive of the family the biblical definition of the family unit," Cathy said. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
Chick-fil-A's stores are closed on Sundays and the company, he said, "operate[s] on biblical principles." The media storm grew larger when a June 16 radio program was spotlighted in which Cathy underscored the need for children to have a mom and a dad.
"As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than You as to what constitutes a marriage,'" Cathy said on "The Ken Coleman Show." "I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."
The company issued a statement July 19 telling its customers that "going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena" and that its tradition is "to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender." It also noted it has applied "biblically-based principles" to business management and will continue to do so.