The Chick-fil-A in Murrells Inlet was overflowing during Chick-fil-A appreciation day on Wednesday.
What started as a remark to a reporter at a Christian publication erupted into a nationwide controversy which led to Chick-fil-A restaurants being packed — and in many cases, overflowing — with customers showing their support.
Georgetown County’s only Chick-fil-A restaurant is located in Murrells Inlet and all day Wednesday there was a multitude of customers filling the building and the drive-through.
Most were there to show support for Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy who told an online Christian newspaper that he supports “the Biblical definition of the family unit” and that supporters of gay marriage were “arrogant.”
After the backlash — fueled by social media — former Arkansas governor and Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee called for Aug. 1 to be Chick-fil-A appreciation day.
Chick-fil-A, in a statement released by executive vice president of marketing Steve Robinson, stresses the company had nothing to do with orchestrating or promotion of the event.
“Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was not created by Chick-fil-A. We appreciate all of our customers and are glad to serve them at any time,” Robinson states.
Jim Dallery, a minister and a regular Chick-fil-A customer from Knoxville, Tenn., was at the Murrells Inlet restaurant Wednesday morning.
“It’s absurd in this country that if a company takes a stand for values they are ostracized for it,” he said.
Sam and Mary Skinner of Myrtle Beach were enjoying a Chick-fil-A sandwich — something they do quite often.
“You should be able to speak what you think in this society,” Mr. Skinner said. “It’s a shame some people want to cause trouble all the time.”
Several ministers from churches from the western part of Georgetown County and eastern Williamsburg County carpooled to Murrells Inlet to show their support and have lunch at the same time.
“I am here because I believe in family value and the Biblical definition of marriage,” said Eddie Hardee, pastor of Andrews Church of God.
Don Parsons, an Andrews resident, said the controversy “is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of.”
He said “if we can’t have the freedom to express our opinions in this country, we might as well get out of here.”
Annie Patton, 16, from Greenville, was vacationing with her family when they decided to join the movement.
“We, as Americans, have a right to voice our opinions. And I am a supporter of traditional marriage,” she said.
Tracy Jones, posting on the Georgetown Times Facebook page, takes a different view.
“I can’t help but wonder how many of these free speech protectors would be lined up to support a company that came out in support of gay marriage?” she asked.
Kevin Jayroe of Georgetown posted a similar message.
“Freedom of speech is great but, from what I have read, there is a lot of hate behind this issue. I just don’t feel comfortable with that in today’s world,” he wrote.
Chick-fil-A reported a record sales Wednesday.
“While we don’t release exact sales numbers, we can confirm reports that it was a record-setting day,” Robinson said in a statement.
As a protest, gay activists have created National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A. Those demonstrations of same-sex couples kissing are expected to take place at some of the restaurants today. It’s unknown if any of the participants will be at the Murrells Inlet location.
What does Robinson say about the planned protests?
“We understand from news reports that Friday may present yet another opportunity for us to serve with genuine hospitality, superior service and great food,” he wrote.
By Scott Harper
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