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Chick-fil-A dilemma: Uphold principles – or just sell chicken? (+video)

Chick-fil-A president's public criticism of gay marriage have sparked a firestorm that could cut into the fast-food chain's profits. Boston's mayor and a Chicago alderman have vowed to fight the opening of Chick-fil-A restaurants in their cities.

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Mark Pettit, president & chief executive officer of Creaxion, an Atlanta marketing firm that has a specialty in crisis management, said Cathy’s candor was bad business.

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“Mr. Cathy needs to understand that while his company is privately held, his brand is publicly owned,” Pettit said. “Thousands of gay people work and eat at Chick-fil-A every day — many of them with a bit of shame knowing they love the company but don’t like what senior executives apparently stand for. Mr. Cathy needs to address the situation head-on and let all customers know they are welcome at Chick-fil-A.”

The scope of the controversy is somewhat uncharted territory for Chick-fil-A.

The company has long said it operated on biblical principles and is well-known for staying closed on Sundays, a stance that has won admiration from some. But experts said it never hit diners over the head with beliefs.

Still, this is not the first time the chain has butted heads with gay rights organizations. They have complained about donations the company and franchisees have made to Pennsylvania Family Institute, Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage, all groups that oppose gay marriage.

At that time, Cathy told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he felt discussion of the issue was a “really great thing” for the company.

Sanders said controversies can yield surprising results. He pointed to a Texas-based pizza chain, Pizza Patron, that launched a “pizza for pesos” promotion in the late 2000s, igniting a media storm during a time that illegal immigration was, and remains, a hot issue.

“There was quite a bit of fallout . They took heavy criticism,” Sanders said. “But here’s the thing: Their sales increased.”

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WHAT HE SAID:

—What Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy said to Biblical Reporter, published July 2, when asked about the company’s support for traditional marriage and opposition to gay marriage: “Well, guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families — some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that. … We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

—On the Ken Coleman radio program June 16: “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.’ 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.”

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