Most of us who were there on that sunny August day will never forget. For everyone else, there's a sign: "Above this plaque is a bullet hole. It marks the heroic action taken by Family Research Council employee Leo Johnson on August 15, 2012." That was the morning Floyd Corkins walked into our lobby and changed FRC forever. He'd bought a gun and learned how to use it. He'd loaded three magazines. In his backpack was a stash of chicken sandwiches that he planned to smear in the faces of staffers he hoped to kill. "They endorse Chick-fil-A," he said. It would be a "statement against the people who work there."
Thanks to Leo, it was a statement he never got to make. Fourteen days after someone snapped a picture of our staff smiling over boxes of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, Leo was the only thing standing between Floyd Corkins and an FRC massacre. To a lot of Americans, the company's decision to walk away from years of biblical truth is upsetting. To us, it's personal.
In the days and years after that, we never talked publicly about Chick-fil-A's response to the shooting. Mainly because there wasn't one. Through all of the press conferences, the trial, and sentencing, I never once picked up the phone or opened my email to a message from someone at headquarters. Not even to ask about Leo. Obviously, Chick-fil-A wanted then what they want publicly now: as much distance from our movement as possible.
That was tough, but we stayed quiet -- hoping that if groups like FRC stood beside them, the company Christians had come to love would have the courage to keep living out their values in the public square. And for seven years, they seemed to. Even when the mob turned up the heat, blocking them from airports, cities, and college campuses, Chick-fil-A rode a wave of conservative support to its highest profits ever. They didn't just survive the LGBT-initiated boycotts -- they thrived, doubling sales since the moment liberals decided it was a "controversy" to give to charities like the Salvation Army.
Whole states got involved -- protecting Chick-fil-A's freedom to believe in legislation that was even named after the company. Cabinet members like Secretary Elaine Chao stuck out their necks, promising to investigate the ban in San Antonio's terminals. Millions of families drove out of their way to stop at Chick-fil-A -- not because the chicken was that good, but because their conviction was. If you're wondering why the backlash is so strong, it's because the people who held up this company as a model of moral courage were betrayed. Unlike so many others in corporate America, Chick-fil-A was standing on truth and winning. Then, after years of holding the line, they just up and walked off the field, leaving loyal customers holding the bag.
And for what? To prove how "tolerant" they are? To appease them? Well, in case Chick-fil-A hasn't been paying attention, there is no appeasement. Groups like GLAAD are already demanding more. "In addition to refraining from financially supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations, Chick-fil-A still lacks policies to ensure safe workplaces for LGBTQ employees and should unequivocally speak out against the anti-LGBTQ reputation that their brand represents." That's what this chicken company doesn't understand. Stand strong, and the bullies will leave you alone. Cave, you'll be led down a path of complete surrender. They might as well hang out a sign that says, "Under New Management: the Radical Left's."
One thing we need to understand is this: Immorality never stands still. It's constantly on the march for more. That's the reality of our fallen world. We just want to co-exist, they said. Our relationships won't affect you, they said. A handful of years later, "affected" doesn't begin to describe what happens to conservatives who think differently than the totalitarian Left.
"If Chick-fil-A thinks that caving to PC pressure will help them grow as a company, they might to check with the folks over at the Boy Scouts to see how well that strategy works," Matt Walsh fired back. The Scouts buckled to LGBT activists six years ago, snatching defeat from the jaws of a Supreme Court victory. Now, they're teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, literally mortgaging away their values with real estate. In what reporters are calling a "desperate move," the BSA announced yesterday that it had put its "crown jewel," the Philmont Ranch, on the market. Why? Because when you compromise on core principles, your base abandons you, the Left isn't satisfied, and you're standing all alone. Chick-fil-A should know that better than anyone. Its president, Tim Tassopoulosi, has seen the demise first-hand from his seat on the BSA Advisory Board.
But the worst part of Chick-fil-A's decision isn't the damage it does to its own reputation -- but to others'. By backing away from two faith-based organizations in the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the third largest fast-food chain just helped legitimize the Left's labeling of these groups. And they've given every other company and celebrity that supports the Red Kettle campaign cover to do the same. The selfishness of that -- sacrificing two other Bible-believing groups as acceptable collateral damage -- says a lot about where Chick-fil-A is as an organization. (Who would've thought that pop star Ellie Goulding, who threatened to back out of the NFL's halftime show over a Salvation Army drive, would end up being more accepting than a "Christian" fast-food chain?)
Every believer in today's culture understands the price of standing for truth. Some people more than others. For every company that takes the road of compromise, there are courageous Christians like Aaron and Melissa Klein or David and Tierney Abel, who are willing to give up everything just to stay true to their convictions. They understand that fear is real, but our faith must be too. The world tells us: Don't rock the boat. Scripture disagrees. Don't pray for deliverance, the disciples were told. Pray for boldness. God changes the course of human history through people who fear Him, not the intolerant crowd.
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.