These days, hot button social issues in the United States -- religion, same-sex marriage, gun control, and abortion -- are more polarizing than ever.
These social issues have widened the gap between the left and the right, and have become a rallying cry for both liberals and conservatives. That rift doesn't appear to be closing anytime soon, either, according to recent surveys by Gallup.
|Americans who...||in 2013|
|support same-sex marriage||52%|
|support stricter gun control laws||49%|
|oppose all forms of abortion||20%|
If you've ever wondered why presidential candidates from both parties always declare their Christianity and take a moderate, vague stance on same-sex marriage and gun control, that chart explains it all -- America is a country split straight down the middle.
United we stand, divided we fall A poll from The Atlantic/Aspen institute showed that Americans believe that the country today is more divided than any era in recent history -- including The Great Depression and 9/11 -- with the exception of the Civil Rights era. The poll also revealed that the top five divisive issues in America today are gun control, gay marriage, immigration, abortion, and homosexuality -- in that order.
Despite all this bickering over social issues, however, the same poll revealed that only 5% of respondents believed that moral and family value issues were the most important problems facing the country; this was the same percentage as the previous year. Meanwhile, concern for the economy as the top issue fell from 52% to 33% -- a huge drop reflecting the economy's improvement over the past year.
Do moral issues and businesses mix? This raises an interesting question -- is it wise for corporate leaders, like politicians, to voice their personal opinions on these controversial issues?
In a market as deeply divided as America, it would seem to be more prudent for business leaders to simply keep their heads down and stay quiet.
However, that hasn't stopped the leaders of some major companies such as Chick-fil-A, Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX), and J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) from vocally voicing their opinions on faith, gun control, and gay marriage. Is this boldness to be admired or to be avoided?
Let's meet the conservatives Chick-fil-A caused quite a stir in June 2012 when its president, Dan Cathy, openly discussed his Christian beliefs and his opposition to gay marriage. The comments led to LGBT groups calling for boycotts against the company, which eventually led to the company issuing this statement: "Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
After the Supreme Court's decisions on gay marriage this past June, however, Cathy again voiced his discontent on Twitter, stating that it was a "sad day for our nation." The tweet was deleted afterwards, but led to a second wave of bad press for the company. Despite those PR setbacks, annual revenue at the privately held company rose 12% year-over-year to $4.6 billion in 2012, possibly due to the overwhelming concentration of its stores across America's "Bible Belt."
However, Chick-fil-A is not the only openly Christian company in America.
Forever 21 is one of the fastest-growing retail apparel chains in the country. The company's founders, Don and Jin Chang, are devout Christians who immigrated to the United States from South Korea in 1981. At the bottom of Forever 21's bags, shoppers can find the words "John 3:16" -- referring to the popular biblical verse: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Rapidly growing fast food chain In & Out also prints John 3:16 on its packaging to promote its faith.