ST. LOUIS (KMOV) —People around the country planned to flock Wednesday to Chick-fil-A restaurants as part of an "appreciation day" in the midst of a national controversy.
Conservative leaders have encouraged followers to show up at the fast-food eatery to support the company after it recently came under fire from gay-rights groups.
Chick-fil-A has always made it known it is a faith-based company, even closing to customers and employees every Sunday. But the controversy started when the president of the company was asked about Chick-fil-A’s support of traditional Christian marriage ministries.
President Dan Cathy responded that his company was "guilty as charged" when it comes to its support of what he called the biblical definition of marriage.
"We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that," Cathy told The Baptist Press. "We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that."
"We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles," Cathy added.
Several gay rights groups soon called for a boycott, and some mayors in large cities like Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia said the chain would not be welcome in their community due to the company’s "intolerance."
That led conservative groups to declare Aug. 1 as "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," calling on people to express their opinions and support with their wallets.
Locally, News 4 viewers said several Chick-fil-A locations around the area were extra packed.
Linda Tottleben wrote on Facebook “hundreds in line at store in Fairview Heights.”
“I'm in line at St. Clair Square. The line is unreal!” wrote Kathy Hodges.
Others said locations in O’Fallon and Manchester both had lines of at least 100 people deep.
We asked the News 4 Facebook fans for their thoughts on the issue.
"If I learned anything growing up it was this: do unto others has you would have them do unto you. If you want others to be tolerant of you, be tolerant of them,” wrote Amy Elise Raposa.
"I definitely support the owner's right to his PERSONAL OPINIONS on the matter of ‘marriage is for one man and one woman.’ For HIM to be discriminated against by the GOVERNMENT is un-American,” wrote Jeanne Hoof Swaney.
After Cathy’s original comments to The Baptist Press, the company issued a statement saying that while they intend to continue to apply "biblically-based principles" to their business, their intent going forward is "to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
After that statement, which was released on July 19, the company and its franchise owners have remained quiet on the issue.