WARNER ROBINS -- The parking lot at the Warner Robins Chick-fil-A on Georgia 96 was packed before 6 a.m. Wednesday. The one on Watson Boulevard was backed up even earlier, said Pat Braski, owner of both locations.
Customers jammed into both fast-food restaurants for what is being called National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, which former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called for in support of company Chief Executive Officer Dan Cathy. Cathy has been criticized for stating that he supports the biblical definition of the family unit.
Its booming, Braski said of the mornings business. The response has been honoring. Weve always prided ourselves on treating people with respect, honor and dignity, and our customers are returning that.Business remained brisk at both locations. Warner Robins police tweeted about traffic on Watson Boulevard because of the rush.
Braski said he hadnt yet calculated the increased sales for Wednesday but expected it is sizeable. He said business has increased over the past five days.
A national debate arose surrounding the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A company after a July article in Baptist Press quoted Cathy as saying his company is guilty as charged in supporting traditional marriages. The comments drew criticism, while others praised him for upholding Christian beliefs and exercising free speech.
It seems like we, as Christians, dont have the freedom of speech, said Marsha Johnson, who ate breakfast at the Chick-fil-A on Ga. 96 Wednesday morning. The Christians are supposed to be silent.
Opposers to the Chick-fil-A company stance plan to have a countering movement Friday, being called the National Same-Sex Kiss Day and Kiss Mor Chiks.
Johnson said the debate over Cathys comments shows the moral values we have in our country now, she said. What used to be wrong isnt anymore.
Johnson and about 10 members of Second Baptist Church met at the restaurant at 9 a.m. because they wanted to support Cathy and Christians nationwide, Johnson said.
Rick Bartlett, who works in commercial aviation, said the deeper issue is freedom of speech.I think its important that we be able to express our opinions, Bartlett said.
Barry Thompson, an X-ray technician, agreed.
The market should decide, Thompson said. If people dont support it, then dont eat there.
Eric Devoursney, who was going through the drive-through at the Watson Boulevard restaurant, also said he came out to support Cathys right to free speech.
Bill Atkins, a U.S. Air Force retiree, noted that hes given most of his life to protect the rights of Americans.
Atkins said he believes in the Biblical definition of marriage of one man and one woman and noted hes been married to his wife for 46 years. He said he also believes in the legal rights of homosexuals but that does not mean he should have to condone homosexuality -- or be silent about his beliefs.
Supporters of Chick-fil-A and Cathy were not limited to Houston County on Wednesday.
The parking lot at the Chick-fil-A on Zebulon Road in Macon was full just before noon, forcing patrons to park across the street and walk to the restaurant. Although two drive-thru lanes were open, the line at times extended into the street.
We support Cathys stand, said Marti Harper, who came to Chick-fil-A with her husband to enthusiastically participate in Chick-fil-A appreciation day.
Martha Holloway of Macon also brought her family to Chick-fil-A to show their support for Cathy.
Because we believe in man and wife marriage, were Christians and we love Chick-fil-a, she said.
Ron Linville, a pastor at World Aflame Tabernacle in Macon, said Chick-fil-A has always been one of his favorite restaurants, and Cathys statements make eating at the restaurant all the better.
Truett Cathy is a tremendous leader, he said. I want (Chick-fil-A) to know we support them.Some patrons visited Chick-fil-A on Wednesday to show their support for the right to free speech.
Nell Durden of Macon said she will happily give Chick-fil-A her business because the restaurant serves everyone and does not discriminate.
I support Mr. Cathys right to say what he wants to say, she said. Its his personal opinion.