Fast Company

Faith Inc.

When I attended the opening of a Chick-fil-A this fall in Evansville, Indiana as part of our Customers First package on exemplary service, I couldn't help but notice how much Christianity is a part of the culture. More than once during the all-night event, Chick-fil-A president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy led employees and customers in prayer, reminding everyone that the company's mission is not merely to serve a lot of chicken, but "to glorify God." The chain, which is closed on Sundays, as a day of worship, has a strong Christian following. In Evansville, a group of teens held an impromptu Bible-study meeting in the parking lot following a game of touch football.

As Russell Shorto recently reported in The New York Times Magazine, more and more companies are wrestling with the integration of church and corporation, particularly with evangelical Christians eager to proselytize co-workers. Companies find themselves juggling competing rights -- freedom of religious expression and freedom from religious harassment in the workplace. So how do you respect both? How has your organization handled situations like this?

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5 Comments

  • Tom Quimby

    The Chick-fil-A counter-culture movement is very encouraging. Mass accumulation dominates the American psyche. From shopping 24 hours a day to continually soaking up endless information on TV, radio, print and the Internet, Americans regularly go for it all and big. And we're seeing the results: people want more and more, which is resulting in immense debt and the stress that comes with it, including working longer hours to help pay for "the good life."

    You know what's interesting. Look at the number of storage centers that have sprung up through the years. Here in Panama City, Fla., I've lost count on the number of garage warehouses. For people who have run out of room stuffing their garage, attic and every other void with thigns, there's always the possiblity of renting a storage unit down the road. Funny enough, a storage facility recently opened up in a building that once housed a Wal-Mart (no, the popular department store didn't close its doors on account of poor business; on the other hand, it expanded into a new Super Wal-Mart just a few blocks away.)

    Yes, Mr. Cathy has put his foot down in the corporate world, and in an age of white collar corruption, it sure is nice. In fact, Cathy has my admiration -- and customer loyalty -- head and shoulders above the rest. I've read the company's reasons for closing on Sundays; Christianity is not overtly promoted -- the word 'worship' is used, but with no particular faith in mind, and really, it's the notion of relaxing and spending time with loved ones that stands out in the literature (and yes, for some, that will mean going to church).

    Too bad Cathy doesn't take up a second career behind the pulpit. In all my years of going to church, I've never heard a pastor speak out against working on Sundays. However, I've heard more than a few express concern for faltering funds. Perhaps a connection?

  • Mathew

    They serve good food. I respect that the founder has specific clear values that he operates the business by. People who apply to work there or anywhere need to know those values so they can opt in or out of working there. A values guided business is an important beacon in today's world. Whether a person would elect to work there or not is a personal matter.

  • B L Crespin

    Although I am quite familiar with Chick-fil-A, having lived in Atlanta for some 20+ years, and I find Dan Cathy's business philosphy refreshing, what with recognizing Sunday as a day of worship and keeping his stores (restaurants) closed to allow his employees to worship as they will, I am not overly enthused with allowing religion in the work place. Religion, like politics can be volatile.

    On the other hand, providing a base platform for business with high moral grounds, such as Dan Cathy has instilled in his 'very successful' business can be a good teaching module for other businesses. After all, think of their overall success. Selling only six days a week has not created any handicap to their business growth. I believe by closing on Sundays they have created a supply and demand situation, and probably make up for lost sales with more people going to Chick-fil-A on Mondays and Tuesdays for their non-bovine fix.

    I am a regular Chick-fil-A customer and I cannnot ever remember ever being offered a bible with my meal. Now, if they begin putting clerical garb on those wonder cows I may have to rethink the religious tie-in.

  • Jaysen du Plessis

    I hate religion and the little man made ceremonies but I think there is huge value in basing your company on solid Christian values and principles.

    I would want nothing more than my staff being honest, have huge integrty when dealing with a client or other staff, have an attitude of excellence and are willing to go the extra mile in all they do. Not to say you can't have these values without being a Christian but I think it is a really awesome way of creating a corporate soul (some warm fuzzies)

  • Joe Taylor

    It's a flummoxing situation here in the South, where lots of folks have been migrating from the Blue States and wondering how to cope with these issues. Folks are getting sued for things they thought (up to now) were just normal business practice, like daily group prayers.

    I've been asked to come into a few businesses to deliver some seminars on understanding that religion in the workplace is a lowest-common-denominator situation, and that expressing faith at work is riskier and riskier from a legal standpoint. If someone even perceives that they're being harassed, it's the company's burden to disprove it in court. (Yikes.)

    Someone I'm close to, who's also a transplant, started working in an office she loves, where she is the only staffer who is not an Evangelical Christian. She walked into a conversation the other day about another colleague who had the "wrong" version of a Bible at her desk. When she asked what was up, she was told, "oh, honey, I don't know we could talk to you about it." And replied, "I'm *Catholic.* I love Jesus, too!" And everybody breathed a sigh of relief. But that's a pretty typical report from the trenches down here!