From the moment the popular American fried chicken vendor Chick-fil-A opened its inaugural UK branch in Reading, gay rights activists started mobbing it with complaints and calls for it to close.
Well according to Reading Pride who led the campaign, the food outlet’s charitable donations to ‘anti-LGBT’ organisations such as The Fellowship of Christian Athletes and, God forbid, The Salvation Army, was indicative of their unforgivable bigotry. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes are opposed to same-sex relationships and marriage equality, and the campaigners say several charities Chick-fil-A gives money to are hostile to LGBT rights. And so, cancelled they must be. Chick-fil-A’s first batch of specialty chicken and waffles had barely been dunked into the fryer when Reading Pride announced a call to arms in the form of a boycott.
‘We respect everyone’s freedom to eat where they choose,’ they qualified, ‘however, we ask the LGBT+ community (including its allies) to boycott the chain in Reading.’
Now, barely a week after the chicken shop began serving British customers, Reading’s mall, The Oracle, has announced that it will not be renewing the company’s lease. ‘We have decided on this occasion that the right thing to do is to only allow Chick-fil-A to trade with us for the initial six-month pilot period, and not to extend the lease any further,’ The Oracle said in a statement, noting that it seeks to ‘offer an inclusive space where everyone is welcome.’
The officials at The Oracle clearly brushed over the fact that Chick-fil-A has some of the most generous employment opportunities available in catering – including scholarships and management schemes – and retains a staff that is world-renowned for its service. Chick-fil-A employees are seen as the friendliest in the entire fast food industry in the US, and the chain would have been a welcome addition to Reading. But now, the Chicken-fried dream is over.
The Chick-fil-A haters didn’t stop there though. In a bizarre statement, an affiliated LGBT group even suggested that the British government should investigate the chain before allowing them to open any UK-based restaurants.
‘Parliament should be questioning businesses like this that work against the values of our amazing country,’ said UK Pride Organisers’ Network member Stephen Ireland, according to the Christian Institute. How Chick-fil-A was ‘allowed to hit the UK high street without openly answering the concerns of the LGBT community’ was shocking, they added.
True to its Christian ethos, Chick-fil-A, the third-largest restaurant chain in America, responded graciously to the bad press. ‘We hope our guests in the UK will see that Chick-fil-A is a restaurant company focused on serving great food and hospitality, and does not have a social or political agenda,’ a spokesman said when the boycott was announced. ‘We are represented by more than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs, and we welcome everyone.’
Still, more clarification was needed. Chick-fil-A doubled down on its commitment to diversity and equality, and defended the charities it supports. ‘Our giving has always focused on youth and education. We have never donated with the purpose of supporting a social or political agenda,’ the company said. ‘There are 145,000 people – black, white; gay, straight; Christian, non-Christian – who represent Chick-fil-A.’
But the writing was already on the wall.
For the simple sin of giving away millions of dollars to worthy causes, the popular eatery has fallen victim to the mob of intolerance and will be forced to close its doors to a British people who, sadly, will no longer have the chance to taste its chicken, and see that it is good.