My temper was recently set off early on the morning of Friday, December 11th, as I stopped at a local Chick-fil-A for breakfast.
What follows is the email correspondence between me and Chick-fil-A, starting with my complaint as entered on the contact form of Chick-fil-A's web site.
Subject: Chick-fil-A Web Form Message
I understand that Chick-fil-a is a business founded by and largely operated by Christians. This already annoyed me, due to the fact that your restaurants are closed on Sundays, but I've given it a pass until this past Friday when simply doing business with Christians crossed over into being proselytized at. Apparently, Chick-fil-A is sponsoring the pre-show of 3 services being put on by Waters Edge Church and felt that it was appropriate to include a flyer for this with my breakfast order. Not being a Christian, I was deeply offended by this assumption that I would care for such an event, at which I would presumably be told how I would burn in hellfire if I do not accept Jesus as my personal lord and saviour. I am disgusted that you would allow this sort of insult to occur and will no longer patronize any Chick-fil-a establishments.
Now, I have no problem doing business with Christians, and while the letter above may seem a little reactionary, I am simply tired of being preached at, so this flyer incident just got under my skin at exactly the wrong time. After firing off this angry email and assuming I would receive no reply (or an automated reply, if any at all), I received the following email on December 17th.
Subject: RE: Chick-fil-A Web Form Message
Thank you for taking the time to contact Chick-fil-A. You are very important to us, and we appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us regarding a flier you received with your recent take-out order from the Yoder Plaza Restaurant.
Because most Chick-fil-A Restaurants are independently operated, I have forwarded your correspondence to Kevin Harrison, Operator of the Yoder Plaza Restaurant, so that he is aware of your issue.
Again, thank you for your time and interest in Chick-fil-A.
Close to my original assumption, a pretty generic reply, even though not automated. I was a little surprised that they even mentioned the owner's name, as I doubted he would even reply after reading this. I imagined that he would glance over it, chuckle/sigh and think to himself, "Have fun burning in Hell, heathen." I had almost forgotten about the whole thing after almost two weeks, but I received the following email this morning.
I'm truly sorry you were offended by the flyer announcing our partnership with Water's Edge Church this holiday season. It certainly is not my intent to offend my customers. Often we partner with a variety of organizations who, we feel, do good things in our community. We partner with schools, clubs, businesses and churches throughout the year. Again my intention is to support positive activity in our community and not to proselytize through my business. I realize that some of our partnerships and the materials we use to advertise these partnerships will not be of interest to some of our customers. Many however appreciate the information.
I admit that at times I struggle to find a balance of how to separate religion and business. A couple of years ago I got reprimanded by a couple of my customers for having Santa in my restaurants. These people happened to be Christians and were offended that Chick-fil-A would have any involvement with Santa. They informed me that I should put nativity scenes in my restaurants and get rid of "all the Santa stuff". I didn't do that because I knew that would be offensive to some customers. I reviewed the artwork for the Water's Edge partnership and I didn't think it would offend anyone. I obviously was wrong about this and I apologize for offending you.
Although I can't make any promises that something like this will not happen again, be assured that your feedback will be on my mind.
I appreciate your honest words and I respect you for your stance and commitment to what you believe.
Chick-fil-A Yoder Plaza
Chick-fil-A Victory Boulevard
I was surprised by his apology, but also a bit annoyed by some of Harrison's points, so I wrote back.
First, let me say that I appreciate your apology. I certainly realize that no one is capable of pleasing all people at all times. Be that as it may, after reading the rest of your response to my original complaint, I would like to further clarify my point.
You claim to partner with organizations that do good things in our community. What good does Water's Edge Church do for our community? I do not actually expect an answer to this question, as it is my view that no church ever does any real good for any community, as they ultimately serve to divide communities and stir up hatred against those that are not within their fold. However, I would appreciate an answer to this next question. Would you ever partner with an atheist organization? Hypothetically, if the Atheist Alliance International organization were to hold it's annual convention in Hampton instead of Los Angeles, would you sponsor any part of this event and/or pass out flyers for it? If Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion and many other fine works of non-fiction) were to give a talk hosted at CNU, would you sponsor any part of this event? What about events for the Secular Student Alliance, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Humanist Association, etc.? All of these groups support civil rights, not just for atheists and agnostics, but for all people, regardless of ethnicity, creed, gender, or sexual preference. Surely, we can both agree that supporting civil rights for all people is something good for our community, right?
I have no problem with your business partnering with any school, club, business or even church. If you support what they do, then partner with them. Of course, I realize that not every partnership will be of interest to every customer, that's why I think that you should just put up a sign, or even have a stack of flyers for people to pick up on their own or simply ignore sitting next to the registers inside the restaurant. When you start passing out flyers, that crosses the line into proselytizing, and that's where I have a problem. I doubt that you would partner with any of the aforementioned atheist / skeptic / humanist groups, but if you did, I'm sure you'd get a lot more customers complaining if you started handing out flyers for such events, especially if they already nit-pick over displays of Santa or cows wearing Santa hats.
Regarding your Santa vs. Nativity analogy, I simply see no comparison to the flyer issue. Sure, you'll get fundamentalist Christians foaming at the mouth over a Santa display, but they're like that wherever they go, with every holiday display (Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, Independence Day, etc.), and with total disregard for the Constitutional separation of church and state as they push prayer into City Council meetings, displays of the Ten Commandments on courthouse lawns, and nativity scenes on the grounds of capitol buildings. Whether they like it or not, Santa is a part of our capitalist American celebration of Christmas. Nativity scenes are also part of Christmas tradition, and I would have no problem with nativity scene on display in any location, as long as it's not government property. Being a private business, you'd be in no such danger of violating the Constitutional separation of church and state with a nativity, so have one if you wish.
Back to your Water's Edge Church partnership, I was not offended by the "artwork" on the flyer, nor did I ever say that I was, so I don't see why you even mention it. No, as stated in my original complaint, "I was offended at the assumption that I would care for such an event, at which I would presumably be told how I would burn in hellfire if I do not accept Jesus as my personal lord and saviour." As you can see by this statement, the artwork on the flyer itself was not the issue, it was the message of what such an event would entail to someone not of that faith, or in my case, no faith at all.
In the end, this may all be a pointless endeavour, but I felt like I had to make my point/views known.