Long lines were seen at Chick-fil-A locations across the nation as supporters came out in force amid backlash over the company president's support for traditional marriage.
Since Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy publicly voiced his belief in the biblical definition of marriage, opponents have thrown blows at his company. The mayors of Chicago and Boston even vowed to ban the chicken sandwich chain.
But supporters showed up in droves Wednesday to mark "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," and stand against those wanting to tear the company down for its Christian foundation.
"When Mr. Cathy made the comment that he thinks this is an attempt to raise your fist at God, I agree with him, and I think that God will not be mocked," supporter Cathy Smith told CBN News outside a Virginia Beach, Va., Chick-fil-A.
"I believe he's entitled to his opinion and if that's what he believes, he shouldn't be criticized for it," another customer in Washington, D.C., said. "This is a free country."
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At the urging of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, about half a million Americans said they planned to visit their local Chick-fil-A restaurant Wednesday.
He told CBN News "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" centers on freedom of speech.
"Nobody's being asked to carry a sign or give a chant or wave anything," he said. "Just show up and say, 'You know what, as Americans, we think that people still have a right to speak their minds, whether liberal or conservative.'"
Gay rights activists have been pressuring Chick-fil-A for months, saying the company is anti-gay for donating to groups that support traditional marriage.
"I think we're 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,'" Cathy said last month on "The Ken Coleman Show."
Soon after, Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno threatened to block plans for a new Chick-fil-A in his ward. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino also put out the unwelcome sign in their cities.
"Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values," Emanuel said. "They're not respectful of our residents, our neighbors."
Menino later admitted that he made a mistake, but the controversy has lit up social media networks with outrage on both the left and the right.
In response to Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, LGBT activists plan to protest with a "kiss-in" at Chick-fil-A restaurants, Friday.
In the past week, leftist groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and a growing number of media outlets and writers have defended Chick-fil-A's freedom of speech.
CBN News also spoke with customers who support gay marriage and who back Cathy's right to speak against it.
"That's his personal opinion," Chick-fil-A customer Alexis Strand said. "Do I think it's fair? No, but I like the food."
"I like the Chick-fil-A food," customer Kevin Myrick said. "So what he thinks about marriage is not going to affect whether I want to eat a chicken sandwich or not."
Many evangelicals are worried that some government leaders feel increasingly comfortable in creating a hostile climate for those who hold Biblical views.
"For the mayor of a major city to say a business isn't welcome because a leader takes a stand for traditional marriage, what's next?" National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson asked CBN News.
"Does that mean that Catholics aren't welcome? Does that mean that Mormons aren't welcome? Does that mean that Muslims aren't welcome? Does that mean that evangelicals aren't welcome?" he continued.
Another concern for many is whether the country has entered an era where buying products and services will become not just business transactions but political statements.
"I don't think we want to get into this war," Huckabee said. "I don't think any company wants to get into this war where people start picking their products based on the personal views of the people who work for the company."
Chick-fil-A declined CBN's request this week for an interview. While no one knows where this cultural storm is headed, Chick-fil-A supporters hope their actions will send a signal that many Americans still appreciate courage, conviction, and a biblical worldview.