The inventors of the chicken sandwich, Chick-Fil-A, are in hot water these days following comments made by their president, Dan Cathy, who said the company was "guilty as charged" in its stance against gay marriage.
The comments sparked a political firestorm across the country, but a closer inspection of Chick-fil-A's roots and its political activities reveal it has made no secret of its conservative values.
The controversy began when Cathy elaborated on his "guilty as charged" comment in an interview on the Atlanta radio program The Ken Coleman show.
"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."
First the Jim Henson Co., which provided Muppets toys for Chick-fil-A kids meals, pulled its toys and its partnership with the restaurant. Then the mayors of Boston and Chicago expressed opposition to new Chick-fil-A outlets opening in their cities.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter to Cathy, posted on the city's Facebook page, condemning his comments and his company's plans to open a restaurant in the city.
"I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail," the letter reads. "It would be an insult to (Boston's gay couples) and to our city's long history to have a Chick-fil-A across the street from that spot."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed similar sentiments on the company opening a restaurant in Chicago, saying "Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values."
On the other side, Republican politicians such as presidential candidate Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee defended the restaurant chain and its policies, which include being closed on Sundays.
RSVP for Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day on Aug 1.Show your support for their stand on the issues! buff.ly/OjOAzE
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee)
July 23, 2012
With two of my boys, Enjoying chick-in-strips and an awesome peach shake at Chick-fil-A. See you here next Wednesday!
— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) July 25, 2012
To anyone one familiar with the family-owned chicken chain, Cathy's views should come as little surprise. All of the chain's 1,600 restaurants nationwide are closed on Sundays, the Christian Sabbath, to allow employees to "worship if they choose to," a decision that was "as much practical as spiritual" according to the company's website.
How the company and its employees spend their money further affirms this conservative mantra. Its charitable arm, WinShape, gave nearly $2 million to groups opposing gay marriage in 2010. The owning family, the Cathy's, also contribute heavily to fellow conservatives.
The Cathy's have contributed more than $81,000 to state and federal politicians since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and National Institute on Money in State Politics. All but $3,250 of those contributions went to Republicans, all of whom held anti-gay marriage views.
Chick-Fil-A's founder and CEO, S. Truett Cathy, led the way in political contributions. He has given more than $45,000 since 1990 while his son Dan, whose comments sparked the current controversy, has given more than $15,000 over that time. Top recipients of the Cathy's largesse include former Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, former Rep. Mac Collins of Georgia, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and one-time U.S. Senate candidate Herman Cain.
Collins voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Dole voted for a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and both Cain and Gingrich were outspoken opponents of same-sex marriage during their presidential runs this year.
The company's employees, most of whom reside in the Southeast where the great majority of the chain's restaurants are located, lean heavily Republican with their political contributions as well. Of the $32,000 that Chick-Fil-A employees have contributed to federal politicians this cycle, only $2,050 has gone to Democrats, according to CRP.
Corrected on : UPDATE: 7/27/12, 3:21 p.m. - This story was updated with information about the death of Chick-Fil-A's VP of public relations.