Wednesday marks Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day and Christians across the country plan to express solidarity with the restaurant following the fallout over gay marriage.
According to the Support Chick-fil-A Facebook page, more than 550,000 people have committed to visit the fast-food restaurant.
Led by former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day has gained the support of influential Christian leaders including evangelist Billy Graham.
The public event was created in response to the backlash the restaurant was facing after its president, Dan Cathy, affirmed his belief in traditional marriage, or the “biblical definition of the family unit.”
His comments were made to the Biblical Recorder, a Baptist publication, and they have been met by protests from the LGBT community, with some elected officials, including the mayor of Boston, threatening to block the company from opening a restaurant in their city.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin has encouraged students to join the action and be a patron Wednesday and expressed gratitude to Cathy and his family for “taking a stand that reflects their biblical convictions” and doing so “with grace and kindness.”
“This entire situation is a sad commentary on the moral slide of our nation and the ‘bully politics’ that too often rears its ugly head,” he said in a blog post. “It is one thing to be a hatemonger and seek the hurt of another. It is something altogether different to take a gracious stand, rooted in biblical conviction, that only wants the best for another, and be labeled as intolerant and a bigot. The intolerance of those screaming for tolerance has become deafening. It is also, in many instances, dishonest.”
Chick-fil-A issued a statement earlier this month saying its “culture and service tradition” is “to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
It also stated, “[W]e plan to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the political arena.”
Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, pointed out the irony in that people were calling for the exclusion of Chick-fil-A “in the name of inclusion.”
“The threats made against Chick-fil-A betray the principle of religious liberty that is enshrined within the U.S. Constitution,” Mohler said in a commentary on CNN. “Civic officials in some of the nation’s largest and most powerful cities have openly threatened to oppose Chick-fil-A for the singular reason that its president openly spoke of his Christian convictions concerning marriage.”
“When [Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel and [Chicago Alderman Proco] Moreno tell Chick-fil-A to stay out of Chicago, are they audacious enough to deliver that same message to the churches, mosques and synagogues of their city that also oppose same-sex marriage?”
Huckabee has also criticized the “vitriolic assaults” on the restaurant, saying, “Only a puppet would have a problem with free speech.”
Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day is not being launched by the Chick Fil-A company and no one from the company or family is involved in proposing or promoting it.