Partnership Between Chick-Fil-A and Bohm Theatre Causes Serious Concern and Protests in Community

Editorial

Written by John Face

Photos by John Face

September 1, 2022

Ever since the announcement in early August that a Chick-Fil-A (CFA) pop up outlet would open inside the Bohm Theatre 2 there has been controversy.  The members of the LGBTQ+ community and supporters have been in an uproar.

Who is Chick-Fil-A?

CFA was founded in 1946 in Hapeville Georgia and opened its first store in 1967 by the S. Truett Cathy family with current corporate offices located in Atlanta Georgia.  S. Truett Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist; his religious beliefs had a major impact on the company.  The company’s official statement has changed over the years, but they have and continue to push their idea of Christian values.

Apparently, being faithful to God means being against any and all things LGBTQ+.  This writer has researched and found that over the years CFA and its owners, the Cathy family, have been very much against gay rights and anything they see as immoral.  The Cathy family and CFA, which they still own, has given hundreds of thousands to organizations and individuals that are against the gay community.

Even though in 2019 the CFA corporation stopped donating money directly to anti LGBTQ+ groups, the Winshape Foundation, an organization created by the Cathy family continues to fund anti-gay groups.  Winshape is funded almost entirely by members of the Cathy family who earn their living off of CFA money made for them by its franchise owners, otherwise known as customers’ money.

Bohm Theatre and Chick-Fil-A

City Watch has reached out to the Bohm Executive Director Shane Williamson and Bohm Board President Cliff Harris.  Harris said that the statement released by Williamson is, at this time, the only comment to expect from him or the Board.  After a lengthy discussion with Williamson, I requested an official statement from him.  He provided me with the following talking points, here in its entirety:

Below are the points from our end. 

  • Chick-fil-A is one of the largest American fast food restaurant chains and the largest specializing in chicken sandwiches. Mr. Dekoekkoek approached the Bohm with interest in making this popular food available to the local public at the Bohm in a way that won’t interfere with performances yet will provide a source of revenue to the Bohm. Something which the charity needs after the pandemic.

We realize that some people have criticized the personal values expressed by Mr. Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A. However, to our knowledge, Chick-fil-A and the local franchisor, Mr. Dekoekkoek, operate in accordance with applicable laws, and the Bohm does not discriminate.

This is no different than any other rental the Bohm theatre has done. We invite any business looking for partnership to reach out to Bohm leadership to explore options.

The above talking points state that the owner Mr. Dekoekkoek, of the Battle Creek MI CFA approached the Bohm to set up a pop up.  City Watch can’t confirm that statement as we have heard from sources that Dekoekkoek approached the City of Albion who then passed the information on to the Bohm, and then worked to bring in CFA.  Either way, CFA and the Bohm worked out a contract that would bring CFA to Bohm 2 on Wednesday evenings from 4:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M.

City Watch initially was advised when this story broke that Bohm employees would not be involved in any manner with the CFA venture.  This is untrue as City Watch has observed that Bohm employees working side by side with CFA employees. It’s stated the Bohm employees take money for concession soft drinks sold only but are still required to be on site during the pop-up hours no matter what their personal feelings may be about CFA.

The Bohm does not discriminate in their business, they say, but City Watch contends denying CFA this opportunity is not discrimination at all.  The Bohm rents out the movie theatres for movies or live events to many people and organizations, which is its intended purpose.  The Bohm can sign contracts with anyone it chooses much like the one with CFA, they also can deny such contracts, especially to a company that has openly fought gay rights in America and affects a group of Albion area citizens in our hometown.  The fact is the Bohm could deny the CFA deal, corporations do it every day.  Domino’s Pizza is not sold inside Little Caesars Arena because the arena owners don’t allow it. Budweiser is not sold at Comerica Park home of the Tigers because they have a contract with Miller beer. That’s not discrimination it’s sound business.

The statement continues that CFA offers revenue for the Bohm, “Something which the charity needs after the pandemic”.  City Watch was unaware as were three local citizens we spoke with that the Bohm was experiencing financial problems.  One person said, “why didn’t they come to the community asking for help first?”

As far as the claim “some people have criticized the personal values expressed by Mr. Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A”, when I spoke with one person in the LBGTQ+ community, “this isn’t about the personal values of the Cathy family” they said, “this is about the hate that is spread by them (the Cathy family), their surrogates, and CFA by supporting anti LBGTQ+ initiatives”.  

The Protestors Against CFA Albion

From the very start there have been protestors out front of Bohm II with signs expressing their opinions about CFA and those buying chicken.  City Watch spent two different Wednesdays talking to them about the concerns they have.  One protestor stated that “I have seen who really cares more about chicken than the gay community”.  Another said that “I saw community business leaders walk right past us because apparently a chicken sandwich means more to them than their gay friends and customers”.

As Frank Passic walked past the protestors after making his purchase, I asked him for a quote.  He said, “Albion can’t discriminate against a business and the town needs businesses”.  He went on to say, “the Bohm needs the money, so if you don’t like the CFA don’t go”.  Art Kale another patron of CFA was asked for a quote as he left said only “the protesters have the right to protest” and went on his way. This writer asked another man for a quote about the protesters.  He stopped briefly, chuckled after I told him why they were protesting and said, “fuck them” turned and walked away.

Loree Grinnell was protesting tonight for the second week in a row as she expressed disappointment that CFA was here in Albion.  One of her problems is the Bohm is a non-profit that is supposed to be supportive of all Albion people.  She said, “The relationship between the Bohm and LBGTQ+ community makes them feel cut out from the Bohm”.  She also feels the Bohms relationship with CFA does the same to local businesses.  When I discussed the Bohms contention that they can’t discriminate against CFA she said, “But they have no problem discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community by bringing in CFA?”.

Loree Grinnell protests

Asked how the public has treated the protestors, most she says, “walk by working hard not to look at us.  We have been able to explain to a few people what was going on and they didn’t enter”. 

This Writers Opinion

So, this is where we are. I write this article knowing full well it may hurt people whom I know and consider friends. But as a journalist I put those feelings aside as I personally choose to be on the right side of history. I have family and dear friends who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and are deeply hurt by the Bohms action and of those who walk past them ignoring their plight just because they have to have a chicken sandwich. What is next, a local NAZI organization renting out the Bohm to sell swastikas? You can’t discriminate. Also, before you get on here and tell me to figure out a way to raise money for the Bohm, I say no. That’s not my job, and whoever the job belongs to has some serious explaining to do. You hurt my family and friends, when you hurt them, you hurt me. We can’t stop CFA from coming to Albion, but we should sure as hell be able to stop them from using our beloved Bohm.

Bohm Responds – Again

I reached out again to Shane Williamson for further comments, and he supplied me with the following expanded talking points.  City Watch will share completely for you all to read so you may see what the Bohm Board and its Director feel.

Bohm Theatre Statement on Rental of the Theatre

Below is the Bohm Theatre Leadership statement and response to questions and
concerns by our friends in the Albion Community. We are providing the community
with the facts around the Bohm Theatre operations and rental and community
concern about Chick-fil-A renting the Bohm Theatre II space.

 The Bohm Theatre is a nonprofit organization serving the greater Albion
community in the arts and entertainment field. In fulfilling our mission, we do
not discriminate against anyone in any way.
 The Bohm Theatre spaces are available to rent for individual, social, and
business use.
 The Theatre itself costs an incredible amount of money to maintain while also
paying for the financing that brought it to life. The organization hasn’t ended a
single year with more cash on hand than it owes in financing and loans.
 Renting theatre space, classroom space, and office space to organizations,
businesses, and more; generates revenue streams that support the Bohm while
the Bohm is not open to make revenue. Rental of a Bohm Theatre space is not
an endorsement of or by the board of the Bohm theatre of any political,
religious, or social beliefs of any renter or organization.
 Additionally, the Bohm Theatre board, staff, and leadership work tirelessly to find
partnerships and business opportunities to further create revenue streams that
support the theatre without having to rely completely on philanthropy. The
leadership of the Bohm Theatre also welcome other businesses and
partners to join us in creating an even more vibrant theatre.
 Chick-fil-A is one of the largest American fast food restaurant chains and the
largest specializing in chicken sandwiches. Mr. Dekoekkoek approached the
Bohm with interest in making this popular food available to the local public at the
Bohm in a way that won’t interfere with performances yet will provide a source of
revenue to the Bohm. Something which the charity has needed since the
restoration of the theatre. 
 We realize that some people have criticized the personal values expressed by
Mr. Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A. However, to our knowledge, Chick-fil-A and the
local franchisor, Mr. Dekoekkoek, operate in accordance with applicable laws,
and the Bohm does not discriminate against anyone. We value all members of
our local, state, national, and global community.
Further inquiries or questions can be directed to director@bohmtheatre.org .

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