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7 Things the Media Missed About the Chick-fil-A Saga

You might think you've heard everything there is to know about the Chick-fil-A controversy. You haven't.

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That said, Tyson is not quite the hardliner on some Christian Right issues that Chick-fil-A seems to be. For example, consistent challenges from unions like the Teamsters mean that it uses slightly more union employees. The company even cameunder fire from the Christian Right in 2008, when a plant in Shelbyville, TN negotiated with union members to provide a paid holiday on Eid al-Fitr rather than Labor Day because about one-fifth of the plant’s employees were Somali Muslims. The Christian Right predictably engaged in  Shariahfear-mongering in response.

Despite small union victories like this, Tyson’s union influence should not be overstated, as the company has been routinely criticized for abusing employees on humanrights grounds. A 2005 report from Human Rights Watch -- which heavily featured Tyson Food -- noted, “Nearly every worker interviewed for this report bore physical signs of a serious injury suffered from working in a meat or poultry plant.” And according to the New York Times, “The report also concluded that packing companies violated human and labor rights by suppressing their employees' efforts to organize by, for example, often firing employees who support a union. The report asserted that slaughterhouse and packing plants also flouted international rules by taking advantage of workers' immigration status -- in some plants two-thirds of the workers are illegal immigrants -- to subject them to inferior treatment.”

6. Not all evangelicals have gone all-in for Chick-fil-A. But this doesn’t mean they’ve provided many strong statements against it either. Without really engaging the fact that Chick-fil-A funds hate groups, some evangelical Christians have engaged both sides of this debate. Rachel Held Evans, an evangelical Christian blogger and author who is respected among liberals for challenging the Christian Right playbook, writes that both sides are getting it wrong. But her critique of the boycotters mainly boilsdown to the fact that she doesn’t feel comfortable labeling close family and friends who oppose gay marriage as homophobes. She writes, “I beg you to please remember that not all Christians who speak out against gay marriage are bigots or homophobes, and calling them those names is as unjust as it is unkind. Many of the people I love most in my life fall into this ‘camp,’ and most of them mean it when they say that they sincerely love their friends and relatives in the LGBT community and wish they knew of some way to hold to their convictions without hurting or insulting their neighbors.” Of course, bigotry expressed in a  friendly tone is still bigotry.

And evangelical blogger Matthew Paul Turner doesn’t really contest the notion that LGBT identity is “sinful,” but simply accuses “the church” of being unloving. But he’s at least a bit more effective in critiquing Christian culture: “Think about it. Would you feel loved by somebody if they included rules, context, and/or explanations about your lifestyle every time they spoke about how much they don’t hate you? Only when talking about gay people do Christians feel the need to preface their ‘love’ or ‘non-hate’ with some variation of ‘I don’t agree with your lifestyle, but…’ Christians don’t talk about any other group of people like that -- only gay people.”

Justin Lee of the LGBT-affirming evangelical GayChristianNetwork hedges on whether or not to support the Chick-fil-A boycott, though he pays scant attention to the fact that Chick-fil-A has actively funded anti-gay causes, mentioning that only as a side note.

Bonus Item 7. A meme enrages Glenn Beck. On Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, Stephanie Drury of the popular ex-evangelical blog StuffChristianCulture Likes tweeted, “You’d never see this many Christians lined up to help at a homeless shelter or food bank. And that’s something Jesus actually said to do.” The tweet was quickly turned into a meme that started going viral.