Corporate Culture/National Culture
Two longstanding and well-known American corporations have reaped very different rewards for their very different positions in the marriage debate.
Chick-fil-A, with over 1,600 restaurants across the U.S., is a privately held and family-owned company that has never been shy about the conservative Christian views held by its owners. According to the official bio of President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy (son of founder Truett Cathy), the "Corporate Purpose" of Chik-fil-A is "[t]o glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."
Chick-fil-A has long drawn the ire of pro-homosexual groups for its financial support, to the tune of millions of dollars, of pro-family organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Family Research Council, the Marriage and Family Foundation, and so on. Most of such donations come from the company's nonprofit WinShape Foundation, which has existed since 1984.
In spite of its opposition, the company has thrived. For 44 consecutive years, Chick-fil-A has experienced positive sales growth. Last year, annual sales were over $4.1 billion. Part of this is almost certainly due to the fact that many, especially Christians, who believe in traditional (biblical) marriage go out of their way to support the restaurant.
Recently, Mr. Cathy (Dan) reinforced the company's position on marriage. In an article published in the Baptist Press, he stated, "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit." Cathy added that "[w]e are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
On the other hand, there is JC Penney. With over 1,100 stores in all 50 states, like Chick-fil-A, Penney's (as it is frequently known) is an American icon. The department store chain was founded in 1913 by James Cash Penney (1875-1971).
In his early twenties, Penney began work in the Golden Rule stores. The owners were so impressed with his work ethic that they offered him a share in a new store that Penney himself would open. He later opened two more stores and by 1907 purchased full interest in all three stores. This was the beginning of the JC Penney brand.
By 1920, there were 120 stores nationwide. By the time of the 1929 stock market crash, there were 1,400 stores. Penney lost all of his personal wealth in the crash, and this took a great toll on his health. While receiving treatment, according to the Southern Baptist Convention, Penney became a born-again Christian after hearing the hymn "God Will Take Care of You" being sung in the hospital chapel. Passing away at the age of 95, Penney lived a long life of significant philanthropy.
Given the recent actions of his company, one has to wonder if Penney is not "rolling over in his grave." Prior to Father's Day of this year, Penney's released a print ad that featured a same-sex male couple hugging their two children. The ad reads: "What makes Dad so cool? He's the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver-all rolled into one. Or two."
The company also featured a lesbian couple in its May catalog for Mother's Day. This is in addition to hiring outspoken homosexual activist Ellen DeGeneres as spokesperson in early 2012. Early this year, American Family Association and other pro-family organizations began a campaign urging their supporters to contact JC Penney and request that Penney's at least "remain neutral" in the culture wars.
There is significant evidence that this campaign is working. In the middle of June of this year, after only 8 months on the job, Penney's president Michael Francis left the company. Francis was responsible for the hiring of DeGeneres and the pro-same-sex marriage ads.
Also, since February of this year, Penney's stock has tumbled. It has lost over 50% of its value, falling from a price of $41.32 to a low of $20.02. What's more, according to American Family Association, "Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered its credit rating on J.C. Penney Co. further into 'junk' status."
Some will dismiss these occurrences as anecdotal, but I believe that there is more to it than that. Both of these companies are large and have high profiles. Their positions in the marriage debate have been widely reported and have elicited passionate responses.
This, combined with the fact that every time (32 for 32) same-sex marriage has been before a state electorate in the United States, it has been soundly defeated (by an average of 67% to 33%), reveals that Americans are willing to stand up for traditional (biblical) marriage -- not only with their wallets, but also at the ballot box.
Of course, as we approach the November elections and the campaigns are white-hot, there is a message here for all politicians: supporting traditional (biblical) marriage is a winning proposition. We'll see who is paying attention.
Trevor Grant Thomas, at the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason: www.trevorgrantthomas.com