The fact that Chick-fil-A is a company that espouses Christian values is no secret. The fact that its 1,600 fast-food chicken restaurants across the country are closed on Sundays has long been testament to that.
But the comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage to Baptist Press on Monday have ignited a social media wildfire.
"Guilty as charged," Cathy said when asked about his company's support of the traditional family unit as opposed to gay marriage.
"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," Cathy is quoted as saying.
Strong feelings of support and disagreement have followed, making Chick-fil-A the top Google trend on Thursday morning as the company's Facebook and Twitter pages were burning up with arguments.
"Hate mongers! Never again! Not another $ from me," Duke Richards wrote on Facebook.
"Goodbye Chikkk-fil-a! your food was delicious, but I can no longer eat nuggets filled with hate!" read a post by Blake Brown.
Eatocracy: Fast food with a side of faith
"I am truly ashamed of the recent admittance from Mr Cathy about your bigoted company practices. I hate the fact that my money was used for this. I will never support your company (and) will make sure anyone I know does not either," Mikell Kirbis wrote on Facebook. "While I'm not a Christian I know that hate is not in God's plan nor (is) ignorantly picking sections of the Bible to brandish. Good bye and I hope either you change your ways or close down."
But the support for the company was just as vehement.
"Just wanted to say I'm proud that you stand firm in your beliefs. You knew the risks, and still took the plunge. May God bless this company with abundance. Never back down!" said a Facebook post from David Jones.
"Thank you for standing up for what you believe. The truth is not hate. It's just the truth," wrote Sharon R Boyd.
"I love the values that this restaurant stands for and will support it every dang chance I get! Pay no attention to the morons spewing hate!" read a post from Raymond Joy.
Does religion influence what you buy? Share your view on CNN iReport.
Twitter comments were also divided.
I personally admire Chick-fil-A for really backing their beliefs. It's so rare that you find people in the business world that will do that.— Miss 'Merica (@MissMerica) July 19, 2012
I personally admire Chick-fil-A for really backing their beliefs. It's so rare that you find people in the business world that will do that.
Chick-fil-A has tarnished the fried chicken industry's once-sterling reputation for never being bigoted, historically, in any way.— Danforth France (@danforthfrance) July 19, 2012
Chick-fil-A has tarnished the fried chicken industry's once-sterling reputation for never being bigoted, historically, in any way.
It's Chick-Fil-A not Adam-Fil-Steve. #rejectedchikfilAsloagans— Wesley Vinson (@TheEvilWesley) July 19, 2012
It's Chick-Fil-A not Adam-Fil-Steve. #rejectedchikfilAsloagans
People who are bashing Chick-fil-a for their Christian stances need to find more important things to complain about.— Chucky McDaniel (@ChuckyMcDaniel) July 19, 2012
People who are bashing Chick-fil-a for their Christian stances need to find more important things to complain about.
In a statement to CNN on Wednesday, the company said it would stick by its principles, but it tried to withdraw from the heated social media debate over them.
"The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent owner/operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena," said a statement from Don Perry, the company's vice president of corporate public relations.
The Human Rights Campaign, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group, said Wednesday that Cathy's comments gave consumers a clear choice.
“It's strange to say, but it's good to see Chick-fil-A finally admit to their anti-LGBT policies," Michael Cole-Schwartz, the organization's director of communications, told CNN. "Now fair-minded consumers can make up their own minds whether they want to support an openly discriminatory company or take their business elsewhere. As the country moves toward inclusion, Chick-fil-A has staked out a decidedly stuck-in-the-past mentality.”
Polling shows increasing support for gay marriage in the United States. A CNN/ORC Poll conducted in late May found 54% of respondents favoring the legal recognition of gay marriage with 42% opposed. The poll had a sampling error of 3%.
Let us know what you think about Chick-fil-A's stance in the comments below.
10 religious companies besides Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A controversy sheds light on restaurant's Christian DNA
I support gay marriage, but damn their yardbird is good. I will still eat there.
Just serve chicken, that's your business. Keep your values out of it, I don't care what you believe in or stand for any more than you care what your customers believe in or stand for. You are in the business to serve food, so serve food and keep your mouths shut and your opinions to yourselves. We'll all be better off.
Welcome to America, where we are brainwashed.
Christian man answers a question in an interview. Now its all over the news (media).
Its the COOL main stream thing to do BE GAY
ITs not COOL to be a christian.
Kill 2 birds with ONE STONE
Get ready for a nation of Atheist BUTT TAKERS hahaha not me im not cool like that lol
I am officially making Chick-Fil-A a part of my diet. Viva La Chick-fil-a
This isn't JUST about discrimination. Chik-Fil-A has spent MILLIONS of dollars supporting anti-LGBT and anti-equality organizations, groups and causes. That means every time I have spent money at Chik-Fil-A a small portion, no matter how small, of my money has gone to support those causes because they chose to back those groups. I don't want my money going to those causes in any manner, so I will no longer be eating at Chik-Fil-A
You said it best sir:
Gays certainly do choose their orientation. A person who cannot control their behaviors needs to be watched, studied and possibly secured in a facility to keep citizen's as safe as possible.
Just like the jews in the halocaust.
I never liked chic fila so they never see money from me... they has always ranked right up there with wal-mart.. a horrible place to go period.
Give it a break its wrong ok, gays are messed up, its a man and a woman its just how it is go die in a hole if you would like to argue, I am glad to see someone in the business world stand up to the gay rights monster that has bent the very image of morality
Thankfully you are a dieing minority. The new generation disagrees with you. Bye bye!
Won't be eating there anymore. Really bad business move! Keep your opinions to yourself and be a bigot in your own time.
"your opinions to yourself" – good advice, maybe you should follow it. You realize that you are chastising them for doing exactly what you are doing?
Let's reverse the roles. So if one does not believe in gay marriage, one should not support businesses owned by people who are gay? Come on, what's next? If you are a republican, you can't buy from people who vote democrat?
Everyone has a right to their own views or opinions, which has nothing to do with business.
To simply state that you don't agree with gay marriage does not rise to the level of bigotry or hatred. Its an opinion, that's it. Christianity does not preach hate, it preaches morality. Values change, morality does not. The hatred is coming from those who support gay marriage. I don't have to agree with you to love you as a human being!
Was wondering how and why they started donw in the south.
"Stuck in the past mentality", as in pandering gutlessly to the market rather than standing by one's beliefs? I'm all in.
It's simple, if you don't want to eat there because cnn tells you they are haters and your dumb enough to believe it, then go find someplace else and stop whining about it. If you want to force all people and companies to believe in gay marriage then you are just as guilty of forcing your OPINION on others.
I admire Chick-fil-A for staying true to their beliefs.
This blog – This Just In – will no longer be updated. Looking for the freshest news from CNN? Go to our ever-popular CNN.com homepage on your desktop or your mobile device, and join the party at @cnnbrk, the world's most-followed account for news.