Americans tend to get fired up when they feel their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion are threatened. Therefore, Chick-fil-A customers turned out in en masse Wednesday at the Chick-fil-A stand alone stores in Camden and Dover for lunch and early dinner to support CEO Dan Cathy's rights.
Americans tend to get fired up when they feel their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion are threatened.
Chick-fil-A customers turned out in en masse Wednesday at the Chick-fil-A stores in Camden and Dover for lunch and early dinner to support CEO Dan Cathy, a Christian businessman who came under fire recently for his stance on marriage and his contributions to interest groups that seek to preserve “traditional” marriage.
The busy scenes at the Camden and North Dover stand alone stores played out at Chick-fil-A stores throughout the nation, according to news reports.
Cathy suffered a backlash when he said he was “guilty as charged” when asked if he opposed gay marriage. He said he did so on religious grounds.
That prompted the mayors in Boston and Chicago to threaten to bar Chick-fil-A restaurants from their cities, before backtracking on those threats. A boycott of Chick-fil-A by supporters of gay marriage also ensued.
As a counter move, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee organized “Appreciation Day,” which hundreds of thousands of Americans signed up for on Facebook.
Appreciate Day caused business to go up between 40 percent and 75 percent compared to normal sales at the Camden and North Dover stores, respectively, owners there said.
Customers from Kent and Sussex counties expressed their desire to support Cathy as fellow Christians or to support his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
Among them was Dan Zappe, of Dover, who brought his wife Mindi, and children Katelin, Catherine, Krista and William to the Camden store.
Zappe said he did not think Cathy’s opinion affected the way he ran his business.
Click here to see our video of Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-A stores in North Dover and Camden, Del.
“Local governments around the country are trying to silence his opinion,” Zappe said. “This isn’t the U.S.S.R. We’re not ready for Stalinism here.”
Bob Whitehouse, of Smyrna, came down to the North Dover Chick-fil-A to express his support.
“Everybody has the right to an opinion,” he said. “They should not be held at bay by the minority.”
Tiffany Simpson, who lives on the Dover Air Force Base with her husband, brought her children Harley, Dakota and Bryson to the Dover Chick-fil-A for Appreciation Day. Tiffany and Dakota felt it was unfair that a Christian restaurant was being chastised for something the chief executive said as an individual.
“Freedom of speech is very important in America,” Dakota Simpson said.
Nicole Theis, president of the Delaware Family Policy Council in Seaford, was in the car ahead of the Simpsons in the busy drive-thru in North Dover.
“I think it’s very unfortunate that he expressed an opinion held by millions of people and got the backlash that he did," she said. "I’m here because I agree with him.”
Bonnie Scheltz, of Sudlersville, Md. said at the Dover store that she believed in family values as a Christian and she believed in the First Amendment.
“Mr. Cathy should be able to say his beliefs and not be criticized for them,” she said.
Aileen Blight, of Dover, said she was not surprised by the reaction in this day and age.
“It’s a sign of the times,” Blight said.
Ivan and Edna Yoder brought their granddaughters Leona and Rachel Spence and friends Carissa Lilly and Heather Sapp to the Dover Chick-fil-A to support Chick-fil-A’s stand “for a Godly cause.”
“As grandparents, we’re very concerned about the next generation,” Edna Yoder said.
Chris Johnson, who owns the North Dover Chick-fil-A with his wife Mary, said business was up 50 percent to 75 percent.
“Today is extraordinary,” he said. “We’ve been very blessed. Right now, our sales are very similar to our grand opening.”
Camden Chick-fil-A owner James Goewey said his business was up about 40 percent.
There were no counter protests in the greater Dover stores, although gay marriage advocates organized a “Same-Sex Kiss Day” at Chick-fil-A stores on Friday.
Rick Kolczynski, who lives with his partner in Barclay Farms, had finished shopping at the nearby Walmart in Camden when he saw the commotion at Chick-fil-A. Kolczynski was happy to see none of his neighbors from his friendly, 55+ community at the eatery.
But Kolczynski was not happy with the comments he heard as he walked outside Chick-fil-A.
“What was really disturbing was to hear so many young people expressing support for Chick-fil-A and it was just really disgusting to hear such outrageous, illogical comments by them,” he said. “It was really quite disturbing to me.
“I was surprised at the amount of inhumane comments equating gay people with crimes that have never been proven,” he said. “And there were a number of young mothers with their young children saying they would never have gay people as baby sitters – male and female – for the harm they would cause their children. Sheer stupidity.”
But Dawn Phillips, of Lincoln, Del. said Chick-fil-A’s stand for “a biblical definition of marriage” did not bash anybody. Phillips, her daughter, Julianna, and friend Rachel Peters, of Tennessee, dined in the Camden store.
“He just made a stand for what he believes,” Philips said.