As a Senate member, Lindsey Graham has the ability to vote to send the United States to war. It’s unlikely that a kerfuffle over a fast-food-chicken chain necessitating the deployment of troops would ever wind up before Congress, but on Thursday, the South Carolina Republican vowed that he would “go to war” to protect Chick-fil-A.
Why might a purveyor of nuggets need such senatorial protection? A group of students at the University of Notre Dame is objecting to the possible opening of a location on its campus, citing the company’s history of donating to anti-LBGTQ+ groups. The students also point to donations made by Chick-fil-A’s billionaire owner, Dan Cathy, to a group fighting the Equality Act, legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
News of the students’ beef with the chicken chain was amplified by a story on Fox News, which has lately gone all-in on stoking the culture wars. Fox’s headline was enough to prompt Graham to stand up for Big Chicken.
“I hope we don’t have to, but I will go to war for the principles Chick-fil-A stands for,” he tweeted. “Great food. Great service. Great values.”
Graham began his tweet thread with a compliment to the Catholic-founded Indiana institution, whose Campus Dining had announced that Chick-fil-A was among the restaurant options it was considering as part of a “comprehensive retail dining master plan.”
“I have always thought @NotreDame was one of the greatest universities in America, if not the world,” Graham wrote. He added that it would be a “dangerous precedent to set” to ban the company from campus because students disagreed with its founders.
Two students wrote a letter this month to the student newspaper outlining their objections. “Our first concern relates to Chick-fil-A’s long history of antagonism toward the LGBTQ+ community,” they wrote. “Over the past two decades, Chick-fil-A has donated significant sums to groups that oppose LGBTQ+ rights.”
In 2019, Chick-fil-A announced that its foundation had halted all such controversial donations. But the students noted that the company’s profits continue to enrich Cathy. “Even though Chick-fil-A has halted the worst of its donations, patronizing Chick-fil-A means lining Cathy’s pockets,” they wrote. Cathy is among a group of megadonors that has given to a Christian-backed fund that has helped to fight the Equality Act, which is currently stalled in the Senate, the Daily Beast reported last month.
They also cited concerns about the chain’s reliance on factory farming, its environmental impact, and lack of sufficient vegetarian and vegan options. The fact that it’s closed on Sundays, a nod to the company’s Christian founders, “is not best for a bustling, hungry college campus,” they wrote.
The Washington Post could not immediately reach the signers of the student-paper letter, junior Tilly Keeven-Glascock and senior Joey Jegier. Chick-fil-A declined to comment.
In addition to the letter to the editor, students and faculty have circulated and signed an open letter objecting to Chick-fil-A’s potential campus outpost. Fox reported that nearly 180 students and faculty had signed the letter, but it appears to have been subsequently made private.