Emily Schmall at Forbes.com has an interesting piece on the anti-gay fast food giant Chick-Fil-A. The purveyor of waffle fries with a side of bible-based  bigotry has been for ages engaging in perfectly legal and ethically questionable ways of ensuring its franchisees adhere to their “Christian” point of view business model. And this was long before Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy decided to open his piehole about marriage equality.

The Forbes article digs deep into how controlling the franchise system of Chick-Fil-A works.

The parent company asks people who apply for an operator license to disclose marital status, number of dependents and involvement in “community, civic, social, church and/or professional organizations.”

But Danielle Alderson, 30, a Baltimore operator, says some fellow franchisees find that Chick-fil-A butts into its workers’ personal lives a bit much. She says she can’t hire a good manager who, say, moonlights at a strip club because it would irk the company. “We are watched very closely by Chick-fil-A,” she says. “It’s very weird.”

Is it legal?

There are no federal laws that prohibit companies from asking nosy questions about religion and marital status during interviews. Most companies don’t because it can open them up to discrimination claims, says James Ryan, a spokesman for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Chick-fil-A has more freedom to ask whatever it wants of franchisees because they are independent contractors and not necessarily subject to federal employment discrimination laws. (Employees, however, may sue under those laws.)

Here are the EEOC Q&As about discriminatory practices. Chick-Fil-A has been sued a dozen times (with a sex discrimination lawsuit slapped on it this year).  In one Houston case, a Muslim store manager was fired for not participating in a “group prayer to Jesus Christ at a company training program in 2000.” It was settled out of court. It’s kind of odd that anyone who is not Christian would make it past the gauntlet of interviews it takes to be hired at Chick-Fil-A. The interview process is apparently grueling, with its goal to root out the “immoral” people who don’t have its religious world view, and, likely to keep the organization out of court by screening these folks over and over to get them to volunteer personal information.

Many Chick-fil-A job candidates must endure a yearlong vetting process that includes dozens of interviews. Ty Yokum, the training manager for the chain, sat through 7 interviews and didn’t get the job. He reapplied in 1991 and was subjected to another 17 interviews–the final one lasted five hours–and was hired. Bureon Ledbetter, Chick-fil-A’s general counsel, says the company works hard to select people like Yokum, who “fit.” “We want operators who support the values here,” Ledbetter says.

It’s not just TEH GAY that this business is “cleansing” itself of.

UPDATE: To answer comments in the thread that this is just a free speech matter, let’s review how it is not, via ThinkProgress.

Here are the basic facts about Chick-fil-A in regards to LGBT issues:

  • Chick-fil-A has given at least $5 million to anti-gay organizations, including known hate groups and proponents of ex-gay therapy, since 2003, including almost $2 million in both 2009 and 2010.
  • Chick-fil-A has a 0 rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which signifies that the company does not offer one protection, one benefit, or even one diversity training for its LGBT employees.
  • Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy openly admitted that he would probably fire any employee who “has been sinful or done something harmful to their family members.”
  • It has recently come to light (thanks to Jeremy Hooper) that current Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy has used the following language to describe supporters of same-sex marriage:
    • “We are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.”
    • “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
    • “We see all the twisted up kind of stuff that’s going on. Washington trying to redefine the definition of marriage and all the other kinds of things.”
    • “We are suffering the consequences of a society and culture who has not acknowledged God or not thanked God—he’s left us to a deprived mind. It’s tragic and we live in a culture of that today.”

That is outright condemnation. That is open discrimination. Now, Chick-fil-A said last week that it will “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender,” which sounds nice, but as the HRC score indicates, there is nothing to substantiate such a claim. There is no policy on the company’s books that actually protects LGBT people from discrimination, and funding hate groups cannot be justified as “honor, dignity, and respect.”

Don’t get me wrong – I love the chain’s food and miss the diet lemonade greatly. But it’s a company that will fire its gay employees at will. Would it be fine if you had a friend or relative fired by a Chick-Fil-A. Is that OK with you as you munch on those waffle fries?