LAWRENCE (Mercer) — Despite its popularity among students, Chick-fil-A will not be coming to the Rider University campus any time soon because of its perceived corporate values.

The chain was the favorite in a survey that asked students last year which restaurant franchise they would like to see come to the campus. The option for Chick-fil-A, however, was not included in a fall survey because, the university said, of the company's opposition to LGBT issues.

"Chick-fil-A was removed as one of the options based on the company's record widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ+ community," according to a letter to the Rider community from President Gregory G. Dell’Omo and Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg.

"We understand that some may view the decision as being just another form of exclusion. We want to be clear that this was not the spirit in which the decision was made," the letter said. "We fully acknowledge an organization’s right to hold these beliefs, just as we acknowledge the right for individuals in our community and elsewhere to also personally hold the same beliefs."

Chick-fil-A, founded in 1967 by the late S. Truett Cathy, holds strong Christian based beliefs. It does not open its 2,300 locations on Sunday in order to allow employees time with their family or to attend religious services.

In 2011 Cathy and his wife refused to allow same-sex couples to attend their marriage retreats. It was also reported that they donated millions to Christian groups that opposed same-sex marriage, which led the Jim Henson Company to sever its ties with Chick-fil-A and a call for boycotts. The company in 2012 said it was a restaurant, and did not want to debate the issue as a company.

One of the restaurant chain's locations made an exception to its closed-on-Sunday policy in 2016, and opened up a location in Orlando after the Pulse nightclub shooting. That location served first responders and those donating blood following the shooting at the gay nightclub.

Chick-fil-A opened a location in the Stockton University student center in 2012, though the opening was not without controversy. The student Senate voted 14-10 in 2014 to ask the chain to leave, according to the Galloway Patch, but it remains open to this day. The chain has a 10-year contract with the school.

Rider has a full Starbucks in its student recreation center, as well as a Subway in the Bart Leudeke Center . The closest Chick-fil-A to campus is at the Hamilton Marketplace on Route 130, a 20 minute drive.

Dell’Omo and Fenneberg asked Rider's Center for Diversity and Inclusion to organize a campus forum so that the voices of students, faculty, staff and others can continue to be heard.

Mark Anthony and Jess Bern contributed to this report

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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