Chicken, Cows and the Constitution

Chick-fil-A brand ad image

Chick-fil-A brand ad image

This post is part of a 2012 monthly series of posts on the topic of the U.S Constitution.

Want another example of how U.S. Constitution-related issues surface in our everyday lives?

This week, Dan Cathy, President and COO of one of America’s most famous fast-food chains, Chick-fil-A, made comments in the press that have been interpreted by some as against same-sex marriage, raising a controversy among gay rights activists and politicians.

In response to Cathy’s comments, three big-city mayors, Thomas Menino (Boston), Rahm Emanuel (Chicago) and Edwin Lee (San Francisco), publicly stated that they disagreed with Cathy and would discourage the presence of Chick-Fil-A establishments in their cities.  For example, Emanuel stated, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” and Lee tweeted, “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they try not to come any closer.”

So, how does this controversy relate to the U.S. Constitution?  Well, the controversy has raised questions related to our rights to freedom of religion and speech — both of which are rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Specifically, Amendment I “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peacefully assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has publicly disagreed with Menino, Emmanuel and Lee by stating, “trampling on the freedom to marry whoever you want is the same as trampling on your freedom to open a store.”

What do you think?  Do you agree that a COO of a privately-held company like Dan Cathy has a Constitutionally protected right to state his beliefs about gay marriage?  And, do you think that city mayors, like Menino, Emanuel and Lee should have the power to prevent a restaurant like Chick-fil-A from opening in their cities based on the religious-based statements made by that restaurant’s COO?

On a lighter note, I have a question for all of you marketers out there:  what do you think of Chick-fil-A’s 17-year-running renegade Cows brand advertising campaign?


  1. Yes, he has the right to say what he thinks…might have not been a good move for the company to do in public.

  2. First, Chick-fil-A is not a public company…”Chick-fil-A is still privately held and family owned.” Second, if you re-read the interview by the Baptist Press (, you will read there were no words such as “anti”, “gay” nor “homosexual” in his statement. His words stated his support for the biblical definition of marriage. Now, by deduction you ASSUME he does not support gay marriage, but taking the statement as it was actually stated, those words did not come out of his mouth. Since it is a private company, he has the right to run his business with biblical values. And since he is a person…he also has the right to state his support for the biblical definition of marriage.

    Regarding the second question…you have government employees, voted in by the public, making decisions on behalf of cities. My question is 1) is that what the citizens of the respected cities want and 2) are the citizens okay with the overreach of government in this way?

    The Consitutional question is now governmental overreach versus a person stating his beliefs.

    • Thank you for your comments, Sherri! I’ve just edited the post to correctly reflect that Chick-fil-A is privately-held.

    • Sherri, I’ve additionally edited the post to reflect, “…comments in the press that have been interpreted by some as against same-sex marriage.” My overall goal for this post was not to take a position on either side of the Chick-fil-A controversy, but, rather, was to remind us of how questions and issues related to our Constitution do surface in our lives frequently today. Thank you again for your comments!

  3. Totally understand. My hope in offering the complete interview link was simply to encourage people to go and read the interview versus relying on the media or the “he said/she said’ method so many of our citizens rely upon. He did not make a statement about gay marriage…he made a statement of his support of the biblical definition of marriage. Hence my comment…he never uttered (sorry for the cow pun) the words “anti” or “gay” or “homosexual.”

    My statement was Mr. Cathy is an American citizen…he has the right to his beliefs and state what he believes. We are exercising our 1st Ammendment right in this forum. Does this mean we are anti-??? (fill in the blank).

    Now, the rest of the blog…yes, I personally do think there’s governmental overreach there. However, I do think it is quite funny that the mayor of NY is not supporting the statements of Chicago and Boston…didn’t NY just ban my choice to purchase and consume a Big Gulp if I choose???

    Thanks for your blog. I feel everyone should be informed and do the leg work to stay informed…we tend to be a lazy nation about things like this!!!

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