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A statement from The Civil Rights Agenda claims that Chick-fil-A is reconsidering its donations
Gay-marriage supporters and chicken sandwich lovers refraining from indulging in Chick-fil-A's controversial sandwich may be able to stop their boycott of the chain.
According to Chicago pro-LGBT organization The Civil Rights Agenda (CRA), Chick-fil-A has confirmed that "they will no longer give money to anti-gay organizations."
The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago Alderman Moreno decided to let Chick-fil-A set up shop in his ward of Logan Square after the chain told him they will release a statement with a memo stating the company's commitment to "treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender." The kicker? The company will also state their "intent... not to engage in political or social debates."
The CRA statement also reveals a bit more, however. According to The Civil Rights Agenda, a letter to Alderman Moreno from Chick-fil-A stated that "The WinShape Foundations [Chick-fil-A's donation branch] is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas."
Company executives have reportedly clarified this statement, saying the company will no longer donate to anti-gay organizations. Considering the media storm that followed the company this summer after CEO Dan Cathy said he was "guilty as charged" for being against gay marriage, it's probably a good move.
Calls to Chick-fil-A were not returned immediately, although Buzzfeed reports that in a statement from spokesman Steve Robinson, the company neither confirmed nor denied the report.
Pete Buttigieg's Chick-fil-A remarks draw reaction from LGBTQ community
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said he does not approve of Chick-fil-A’s politics, but “kind of” approves of its chicken.
“Maybe if nothing else, I can build that bridge,” the openly gay 2020 presidential hopeful said on the syndicated radio show, “The Breakfast Club” on Tuesday. “Maybe I’ll become in a position to broker that peace deal.”
His comments drew laughs from the show’s hosts, but are sparking different reactions among some in the LGBTQ community.
Matthew Riemer, an LGBTQ historian and author of the forthcoming book “We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation,” said Buttigieg missed an opportunity to condemn a company with a legacy of financially backing anti-LGBT organizations.
“It’s so much more empowering to the community at large if candidates would say it’s OK to be angry and not support these organizations,” Riemer, 37, said. “It’s not minorities’ job to reach out and make peace with an organization that has openly expressed its hatred for us.”
Chick-fil-A first came under fire in 2012 when it was revealed that the company — via its late founder S. Truett Cathy’s charity the WinShape Foundation — donated nearly $2 million to groups that oppose same-sex marriage. Shortly thereafter, the fast food restaurant’s COO Dan T. Cathy made a series of public comments opposing same-sex marriage, stating that it was company policy to support “the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.”
Despite an ensuing public relations storm, the company continued to donate to anti-LGBT organizations, including the Marriage & Family Foundation, Exodus International and the Family Research Council.
ThinkProgress recently reported that in 2017, Chick-fil-A gave $1.65 million to an organization called the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which requires its employees to refrain from “homosexual acts.”
The fast food restaurant chain in 2015 had a zero rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies on whether they offer protections and benefits to LGBT staff and other criteria.
Jon Paul Higgins, a writer and critic, doesn't eat at Chick-fil-A but partly understands that capitalism makes it difficult to avoid supporting companies you morally oppose.
Higgins still supports Apple, even though its business practices are “problematic.”
“Everyone is problematic,” Higgins said. “I think if there is a difference it’s that I’ve never heard Apple saying they hate a group of people like Chick-fil-A has. Why would I give my hard-earned queer money to a company outrightly saying they hate me?”
Tech Dating app Grindr defeats appeal over harassment campaign
But Higgins, 33, also states that those in the LGBT community who still support Chick-fil-A may not feel they are affected by the company’s policies, which does the community a disservice.
“When you’re on the front lines seeing students saying, 'My family hates me, they want to get rid of LGBTQ individuals,' you’re not going to support an organization that adds to that pain,” Higgins said.
Some others in the LGBTQ community believe that Buttigieg has paved the way for an open and honest dialogue with the fast food company and the LGBTQ community.
Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, an LGBTQ political advocacy organization, said he has gone out of his way to meet with Chick-fil-A franchise owners after discovering several of them were showing up at the organization’s events.
Williams thinks it’s imperative for LGBTQ advocates in Utah — one of the reddest states in the nation — to engage with people who oppose the queer community in order to enact change. Equality Utah regularly meets with leaders from the Mormon Church and the Republican Party, he said.
“Mayor Pete understands that the increased polarization of our country is tearing us apart,” Williams, 49, wrote in an email to NBC News. “Our nation is desperate for leaders who can heal divides and bring us back together. We will be cheering him on in those efforts.”
Chick-fil-A told NBC News in a statement that it does not have a comment on Buttigieg’s remarks, but said its “restaurants welcome and embrace all people, regardless of … sexual orientation or gender identity.” It also said that it donated money to a range of organizations in 2017 and that the “sole focus” of its donations was to support youth-oriented and educational causes.
Last week, the San Antonio City Council voted to block Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant at San Antonio International Airport, citing the company’s "legacy of anti-LGBT behavior." Earlier this month, a dean at Rider University in New Jersey resigned after the school decided not to bring the chicken restaurant to campus because of its donation history.
Joseph Rodriguez, co-founder of a strategy and social impact firm, Gardner Rodriguez, said that even though it’s early in the 2020 race, he is rooting for Buttigieg.
He manages a Twitter page titled “SF Bay Area for Pete” as part of a grassroots efforts to mobilize support for the candidate, who, like him, is a gay man. Yet he said he will “never spend a dollar” at Chick-fil-A, noting that LGBTQ youth may be driven to suicide or self-harm because their orientation doesn’t match with their church’s or family’s beliefs.
Despite Buttigieg’s taste in chicken, Rodriguez views the mayor’s recent comments and candidacy as a source of monumental change for the country.
“There’s a parallel between Pete and Harvey Milk, who’s kind of our patron saint,” Rodriguez, 58, said. “Milk talked a lot about hope, and Pete not only talks about hope, he gives people hope.”
Chick-Fil-A Cagily Suggests It May Be Backing Off Anti-Gay Donations
As part of a deal to open a new location in Chicago, fast food giant Chick-Fil-A may have agreed this week to include an LGBT non-discrimination policy for workers and customers, and to stop donating to anti-gay groups. Chick-Fil-A wants to open a second location in the city, but has been met with resistance by the local LGBT community and city officials. Alderman Proco &ldquoJoe&rdquo Moreno has been trying to broker a deal.
A Chicago LGBT rights organization The Civil Rights Agenda told BuzzFeed Wednesday that as part of negotiations, the foundation responsible for Chick-Fil-A&rsquos giving agreed to stop donating to anti-gay advocacy groups, including two far-right institutions, Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage:
The comments came, the group The Civil Rights Agenda said, in correspondence with a Chicago alderman who had opposed the chain&rsquos expansion to the city.
&ldquoThe WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas,&rdquo the chain is said to have written in a letter to Alderman Proco Moreno. The Chicago group added in a press release: &ldquoIn meetings the company executives clarified that they will no longer give to anti-gay organizations, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage.&rdquo
Oddly, though, neither Focus on the Family nor the National Organization for Marriage are on the list of groups to which WinShape has donated.
In following up for more details, BuzzFeed received a canned response from the company, saying, &ldquoWe have a 65-year history of providing hospitality for all people and, as a dedicated family business, serving and valuing everyone regardless of their beliefs or opinions.&rdquo That line echoes Chick-Fil-A&rsquos Senior Director of Real Estate and its Facebook page, but are in direct contradiction to some of the company&rsquos president, Dan Cathay&rsquos, remarks.
Chicago was at the epicenter of the Chick-Fil-A battle, with its only Chick-Fil-A owner speaking out against the company, and city officials &mdash including Moreno &mdash threatening to stop the store from opening a second location at all.
Chick-fil-A donated another $1.8 million to anti-LGBTQ groups
Documents show that Chick-fil-A donated to anti-LGBTQ organizations in 2018, a year after its 2017 donations, which came to light earlier this year.
This past March, the Chick-fil-A Foundation’s tax returns showed that the organization had donated $1.8 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), the Salvation Army, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home in 2017, years after Chick-fil-A said that they would stop donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations.
Now tax returns from 2018 show that donations to the FCA and the Salvation Army continued. The 990 says that Chick-fil-A made two donations of $825,000 to the FCA and one donation of $115,000 to the Salvation Army in Atlanta, for a total of $1.8 million.
No donations were made to the Paul Anderson Youth Home in 2018, which said in the past that the “homosexual behavior and lifestyle” are “evil.”
After the 2017 donations got media attention earlier this year, the fast food chain faced backlash. Airports and colleges rejecting contracts with Chick-fil-A and people protested as the chicken restaurant tried to expand to Canada and the U.K., while the right made Chick-fil-A a symbol of their fight against LGBTQ rights.
Last month, Chick-fil-A announced a new system for determining the organizations that it would donate to through its foundation. Junior Achievement USA and the Covenant House International were both prominently featured in their press release, while the FCA and Salvation Army were both missing.
“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” said Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”
He said that Chick-fil-A had made a multi-year commitment to some organizations that continued to get money, and Tassopoulos later told Vice, “No organization will be excluded from future consideration–faith-based or non-faith-based.”
The FCA, an organization founded to spread Christianity through sports that has been accused of encouraging public school coaches to proselytize to athletes, has a “sexual purity statement” that leaders are supposed to follow.
The statement says that marriage is “a covenant between one man and one woman,” that “God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman,” and that “each person’s gender is determined by biological sex instead of one’s self-perception.”
The FCA’s Statement of Faith also says that marriage is “between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society.”
The Salvation Army has a history of opposing civil rights legislation for LGBTQ people and has discriminated against transgender people on multiple occasions.
There is no way of knowing if Chick-fil-A learned how to quit these groups until its foundation’s tax returns for 2019 are released next year.
Chick-fil-A Donated Millions To Anti-LGBTQ Charities In 2017, Records Show
Which came first: the chicken, or the anti-LGBTQ organizations the chicken donates millions to every year?
Fast food chain Chick-fil-A continued to contribute millions of dollars to organizations with anti-LGBTQ agendas after it promised not to, newly released tax filings obtained by ThinkProgress show.
The privately owned chain, long associated with anti-LGBTQ causes, publicly pledged not to “have a political or social agenda” after its billionaire CEO, Dan Cathy, stoked outrage and a boycott in 2012 publicly decrying gay marriage.
In 2017 (the most recent tax filing available), Chick-fil-A donated $9.9 million to charity, of which roughly $1.8 million went to three groups known to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Of the three, Chick-fil-A gave the most, $1.65 million, to an organization called the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Per Chick-fil-A’s website, the cash funded “sports camps and school programs for inner-city youth.”
A laudable goal, for sure. Save for the fact the group requires camp leaders to sign a “statement of faith” prior to being admitted. The nine-point contract includes a “sexual purity statement” that prohibits “heterosexual sex outside of marriage” and “any homosexual act.” A second bullet on the contract states that “marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.”
Chick-fil-A notes that camp participants ― unlike camp leaders ― aren’t required to sign the pledge. But that’s hardly an argument for giving $1.65 million to the group, which harbors and preaches anti-gay sentiment.
The company also donated $150,000 to the Salvation Army, a charity that has drawn increased scrutiny for its long history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
In 2012, a Salvation Army media relations director in Australia told a group of queer journalists that gay people deserve death. (The charity hastily backpedaled from the statement.) And in 2017, the same year as Chik-fil-A’s donation, the New York City Commission on Human Rights charged the Salvation Army with discriminating against transgender patients at four of its substance abuse centers.
A third charity with anti-LGBTQ policies that received funds from Chick-fil-A has since been cut off, the company told HuffPost. Tax filings show a $6,000 donation in 2017 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, a Georgia-based “Christian residential home for troubled youth” that teaches boys that same-sex marriage is a “rage against Jesus Christ and His values,” according to ThinkProgress.
In an emailed statement, Chick-fil-A said its foundation ceased donating to the youth home after determining it “does not meet Chick-fil-A’s commitment to creating a welcoming environment to all.”
Chick-fil-A pushed back on reports its donations continue to advance anti-LGBTQ policies in a separate statement to HuffPost, claiming the “sole focus” of the company’s charity is “to support causes focused on youth and education.”
“We are proud of the positive impact we are making in communities across America and have been transparent about our giving on our web site,” the company said. “To suggest our giving was done to support a political or non-inclusive agenda is inaccurate and misleading. To view Chick-fil-A’s full stewardship report, please click here.”
Chick-fil-A Executive Calls Supporting Anti-LGBTQ Organizations A 'Higher Calling'
Chick-fil-A’s long history of supporting anti-LGBTQ positions has resurfaced as the head of the company’s charitable branch said the organization does not intend to stop donating to groups with a history of LGBTQ discrimination.
Rodney Bullard, leader of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, defended the group’s donations in an interview published Wednesday in Business Insider, saying they were “relevant and impactful to the community.”
“The calling for us is to ensure that we are relevant and impactful in the community, and that we’re helping children and that we’re helping them to be everything that they can be,” said Bullard, the company’s vice president of corporate social responsibility and the executive director of the company’s charitable foundation. “For us, that’s a much higher calling than any political or cultural war that’s being waged. This is really about an authentic problem that is on the ground, that is present and ever present in the lives of many children who can’t help themselves.”
Bullard told Business Insider that Chick-fil-A is focused on serving low-income and underprivileged children, ignoring the fact that LGBTQ youth are often disproportionately harmed by issues like homelessness, mental illness and poor education.
The company, which is headquartered in Georgia, has long drawn criticism over its donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations. Tax documents obtained in March by ThinkProgress found that the company donated about $1.8 million in 2017 to groups known to discriminate against the queer community, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, The Salvation Army and the Paul Anderson Youth Home. Chick-fil-A said it has since stopped donating to the latter organization after learning of its strict policy against same-sex marriage.
Chick-fil-A has also gained heat for not including employee protections for discrimination stemming from sexual orientation and gender identity, according to ThinkProgress. The company also consistently scores a zero in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual buyers guide.
The company prompted outrage in the LGBTQ community after billionaire CEO Dan Cathy publicly denounced same-sex marriage in 2012. Chick-fil-A since pledged not to have a political agenda, though its tax filings show differently.
In the months since the filings’ release, two airports have banned Chick-fil-A from opening on their premises. San Jose, California, said it would allow a location at its airport if the company encourages hiring LGBTQ employees and if LGBTQ flags are hoisted at the airport to counter queer discrimination.
Some people on Twitter reacted to the Chick-fil-A Foundation’s dismissal of criticism over its donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations:
here goes: both Wendy’s and Jack in the Box spicy chicken sandwiches are better than chik-fil-a&mdash christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) May 17, 2019
I only go there on Sunday.&mdash Jeff Furbish (@JJFurb) May 17, 2019
Chick-fil-A says it won’t donate to anti-LGBTQ groups — at least for now
Chick-fil-A Inc. said its philanthropic arm will not donate next year to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or the Salvation Army — which espouse or have been linked to anti-LGBTQ stances — as the chain of chicken restaurants continues to face public pressure about its charitable giving.
The Atlanta company said Monday that it will focus its philanthropic efforts on organizations that work on education, homelessness and hunger issues. As part of this new plan, the Chick-fil-A Foundation said it will donate a total of $9 million next year to local food banks, youth financial literacy group Junior Achievement USA and Covenant House International, which helps provide housing and services to young people without homes.
The chain has been working to shed its image as an opponent of LGBTQ rights, and this year the debut of a rival chicken sandwich from Popeyes offered Chick-fil-A’s customers a wildly popular alternative.
In 2012, Dan Cathy — who was then the company president — kicked a hornet’s nest by saying in an interview that Chick-fil-A was “very much supportive of” the “biblical definition of the family unit.” Cathy is the founder’s son and now serves as chief executive.
“We don’t claim to be a Christian business,” Cathy told Baptist Press at the time. “But as an organization we can operate on biblical principles.”
His remarks sparked an immediate backlash. Protesters gathered at Chick-fil-A restaurants, politicians denounced the chain, and Jim Henson Co. pulled out of a deal to make toys for its kids’ meals. Shortly after, Chick-fil-A said it would no longer donate money to anti-LGBTQ groups.
But it continued to donate to such charities as the Salvation Army, a Christian-aligned group that in the past has said people attracted to members of the same sex should remain celibate.
In 2012, a Salvation Army spokesman told Australian journalists that part of the organization’s belief system was that LGBTQ people deserve death. (The larger group said he’d misinterpreted its guidance.) The previous year, a gay rights activist told the New York Times that two decades earlier, when he and his boyfriend were homeless, the Salvation Army had refused to shelter them unless they broke up and attended church services.
The Salvation Army said in a statement Monday that it was “saddened” by Chick-fil-A’s decision to halt its donations, adding that its own focus on education, homelessness and hunger is in line with the foundation’s stated initiatives.
The charity also said it believes it is the largest provider of poverty relief to “the LGBTQ+ population.”
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes did not respond Monday to a request for comment. On its website, it says it believes marriage is “exclusively the union of one man and one woman.”
Chick-fil-A left open the possibility of resuming its contributions to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the future. Its foundation said Monday that it will evaluate its donations on a yearly basis.
President Tim Tassopoulos said in a statement that no organization would be excluded from future consideration. Chick-fil-A did not respond to follow-up questions about whether it has ruled out future donations to groups that have track records of anti-LGBTQ stances.
LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD said investors, employees and customers could greet Monday’s news with “cautious optimism” because Chick-fil-A has made similar pledges in the past that “were previously proven to be empty.” It did not respond to a follow-up question about whether it has any concerns about next year’s announced recipients, Junior Achievement and Covenant House.
The controversy has had business implications for the fast-food chain. This year, concessions operator Delaware North decided against adding a Chick-fil-A restaurant to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in New York state after protests led by a local assemblyman.
On Monday, Delaware North said that although it applauded Chick-fil-A’s announcement, the move to nix the airport Chick-fil-A was a business decision that it is not reconsidering.
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Samantha Masunaga is a business reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She’s worked at the paper since 2014.
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Chick-fil-A is arguably best known for three things: its juicy chicken sandwiches, its employees’ perpetually chipper attitudes, and its long history of donating to charities with anti-LGBTQ stances.
But one of those things seems to be changing next year. The fast-food chain is changing its charitable giving approach in 2020 — and says, in an oblique way, that it will no longer donate to such organizations.
The Chick-fil-A Foundation will instead take “a more focused giving approach,” Chick-fil-A announced in a Monday press release. The foundation has set aside $9 million for 2020 that will be split between three initiatives: promoting youth education, combating youth homelessness, and fighting hunger. Those funds will be distributed to Junior Achievement USA, Covenant House International, and local food banks in cities where the chain opens new locations.
The release didn’t outright say the biggest change to Chick-fil-A’s philanthropic giving plan: In 2020, the chain won’t give any money to charities that take anti-LGBTQ stances. In an interview with real estate publication Bisnow, however, Chick-fil-A’s president and CEO Tim Tassopoulos made it clear that the company’s new donation strategy is at least partly related to the constant backlash Chick-fil-A has faced over its donations.
“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” Tassopoulos told Bisnow. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”
Notably, Chick-fil-A never explicitly said it would permanently stop donating to anti-gay groups or organizations that discriminate against LGBTQ people — it just said it was changing its philanthropic giving model. Chick-fil-A didn’t respond to The Goods’ request for comment, but a company spokesperson did tell VICE that it wouldn’t rule out giving to religious groups in the future.
“No organization will be excluded from future consideration–faith-based or non-faith-based,” Chick-fil-A President and COO Tim Tassopoulos said in a statement to VICE.
Chick-fil-A’s controversial donations don’t seem to have made a dent in its profits — as of late 2018, it was on track to be the third-largest fast-food chain in the United States — though it’s hard to know for sure since the company is still privately held. Still, Tassopoulos’s comments suggest that the company’s reputation has suffered even if its bottom line hasn’t.
LGBTQ groups are “cautiously optimistic” about the change
LGBTQ rights groups like GLAAD say Monday’s news is a step in the right direction for Chick-fil-A, though they warn the chain is still far from inclusive.
“Chick-fil-A investors, employees, and customers can greet today’s announcement with cautious optimism, but should remember that similar press statements were previously proven to be empty,” Drew Anderson, director of campaigns and rapid response for GLAAD, told The Goods in an emailed statement. “In addition to refraining from financially supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations, Chick-Fil-A still lacks policies to ensure safe workplaces for LGBTQ employees and should unequivocally speak out against the anti-LGBTQ reputation that their brand represents.”
As Anderson’s statement suggests, Chick-fil-A has promised to cut ties with anti-LGBTQ charities before. In 2012, the Chicago-based Civil Rights Agenda issued a statement claiming that Chick-fil-A had promised to “no longer give to anti-gay organizations, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for marriage.”
Chick-fil-A declined to comment on the matter at the time, instead issuing a boilerplate statement to BuzzFeed News:
“We have no agenda, policy or position against anyone. We have a 65-year history of providing hospitality for all people and, as a dedicated family business, serving and valuing everyone regardless of their beliefs or opinions. The genuine, historical intent of our WinShape Foundation and corporate giving has been to support youth, family and educational programs.”
But the company’s donations to anti-LGBTQ groups continued. As ThinkProgress reported in 2017, Chick-fil-A continued to bankroll anti-gay groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Salvation Army, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home through its foundation. Recent tax filings show that Chick-fil-A’s foundation donated $115,000 to the Salvation Army and $1.65 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2018, though a company spokesperson told Bisnow that those donations were the result of multi-year commitments to each organization.
This time around, though, Chick-fil-A announced the change to its philanthropic plan itself instead of letting the news trickle out through a third party. But it didn’t quite promise to end all donations to anti-LGBTQ groups. Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation will begin doling out donations through annual grants, Tassopoulos told Bisnow, and it will reevaluate the charities it donates to each year.
Chick-fil-A’s business model is largely rooted in its owner’s religious beliefs
S. Truett Cathy, a devout Baptist, opened the first Chick-fil-A in Atlanta in 1967, and the chain has remained in his family’s hands ever since. Today there are more than 2,300 locations across the country — all of which are closed on Sundays. (“Having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours,” Chick-fil-A’s website reads, “Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose — a practice we uphold today.” A previous iteration of the website reportedly claimed the restaurant was closed on Sundays as a “testament to [Cathy’s] faith in God.”)
“It was not an issue in 1946 when we opened up our first restaurant,” Dan Cathy, Truett’s son and the chain’s current CEO, said in a 2012 interview with the Baptist Press. “While developers had no identity whatsoever with our corporate purpose to ‘glorify God and be a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and have a positive influence on all that come in contact with Chick-fil-A,’ they did identify with the rent checks that we wrote to the mall, based on our sales.”
Boycotts haven’t stopped the growth of Chick-fil-A
That 2012 interview, in which Cathy was quoted as saying that he believes in the “biblical definition of the family unit” — i.e., that marriage should only be between a man and a woman — was the catalyst for a major national controversy. Cathy later tried to clarify his point in a radio interview: “As it relates to society in general,” he said, “I think we are inviting God’s judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you do as to what constitutes marriage.’”
The backlash to Cathy’s comments was swift. First a New York woman named Carly McGehee planned an LGBTQ kiss-in at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country. It was scheduled for August 3, 2012. Then came the backlash to the backlash: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee responded to McGehee’s plan with a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” scheduled for August 1. Thousands of people across the country bought chicken sandwiches in support of the Cathys and their mission, and Dan Cathy himself made an appearance at a Chick-fil-A location in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to thank customers for showing up.
But the 2012 incident wasn’t the first time the Cathys were accused of homophobia. A year earlier, a Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A’s decision to donate food to a marriage seminar conducted by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a group known for its anti-gay advocacy, prompted a nationwide boycott of the chain. Cathy issued a video statement in response to the boycott, in which he claimed the company “serves all people” and that, while he personally believes in the “biblical definition of marriage,” his company doesn’t have an “anti-gay agenda.” And back in 2002, a former employee of a Houston Chick-fil-A sued the chain for discrimination. The employee, who was Muslim, alleged he had been fired because he refused to pray to Jesus with other employees. The suit was settled out of court.
These controversies also shined a light on the fact that the Cathys regularly made donations to charities known for discriminating against LGBTQ people.
In 2011, the same year a Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A franchise donated food to a local anti-gay organization, the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Matters obtained tax records which revealed that the Cathy family had donated more than $1.9 million to anti-gay groups in 2010 through the WinShape Foundation, the Cathy family’s charitable giving organization founded by Truett Cathy in 1984. Those donations included a $1.1 million gift to the Marriage & Family Foundation, a group that promoted so-called traditional marriage and opposed both gay marriage and divorce $480,000 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an athletic organization that requires applicants to agree to a “sexual purity statement” that condemns LGBTQ people for living “impure lifestyle[s]” and $1,000 to Exodus International, a group that promotes anti-gay conversion therapy.
For Chick-fil-A’s opponents, the problem was bigger than Cathy’s anti-gay comments, it was that he was apparently putting his money where his mouth was, and he had a lot of money to go around.
Petitions and boycotts didn’t hurt Chick-fil-A — the chain continued expanding across the country despite people’s opposition to the Cathys’ views on marriage — but they did potentially contribute to making the Cathys somewhat less vocal about their political beliefs.
In a 2014 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cathy admitted he regretted getting involved in the gay marriage debate. Cathy didn’t claim to have regretted what he said, just that he said it. “I think the time of truths and principles are captured and codified in God’s word and I’m just personally committed to that,” he said at the time. “I know others feel very different from that and I respect their opinion and I hope that they would be respectful of mine. . I think that’s a political debate that’s going to rage on. And the wiser thing for us to do is to stay focused on customer service.”
Chick-fil-A’s controversies somehow haven’t been bad for business, but they are bad PR
Though Chick-fil-A never managed to fully shed its reputation as a homophobic purveyor of delicious chicken sandwiches, it continued to expand its national presence, especially above the Mason-Dixon line. New York City’s first Chick-fil-A, a 5,000-square-foot behemoth in Midtown, opened in 2015. (It was met with resistance by locals but opened anyway.) Three years later, Chick-fil-A added another New York City location, a five-story, 12,000-square-foot restaurant that, according to ABC News, is “nearly twice the size of any existing Chick-fil-A.” (This location, like many other Chick-fil-As across the country, is an independently owned franchise. It is not open on Sundays.)
President Donald Trump speaks behind a table full of McDonald’s hamburgers, Chick-fil-A sandwiches and other fast food as he welcomes the 2018 Football Division I FCS champs North Dakota State Bison in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on March 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images
By the end of 2018, Chick-fil-A was slated to overtake Subway and become the third-largest fast-food restaurant in the country after McDonald’s and Starbucks, according to a report by Kalinowski Equity Research. It’s reportedly the most profitable fast-food chain in the country on a per-location basis, and has been the number one fast-food restaurant on the American Customer Satisfaction Index for three years in a row.
In a 2017 interview with Morning Consult, Thomas Ordahl, chief strategy officer of the brand consulting firm Landor, succinctly explained how Chick-fil-A has been able to weather these constant controversies. “What’s interesting about the paradox of Chick-fil-A is that, in many ways, it’s probably one of the most socially advanced companies in terms of treatment of employees and its role in the community,” Ordahl said, “and yet its founder has a position that is quite dissonant with most people in the U.S.”
As Rachel Sugar previously wrote for The Goods, part of Chick-fil-A’s popularity is due to a pretty simple fact: people eat there because they like the food, even if they don’t like what the Cathys stand for.
The Cathys’ “dissonant view,” as one brand consultant called it, may have finally hurt Chick-fil-A’s bottom line — especially now that a popular, non-homophobic alternative to Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches has emerged. Earlier this year, Popeye’s temporarily began selling chicken sandwiches at its locations across the country. The sandwiches were so popular that the chain declared a national shortage in August.
Popeye’s sandwiches are now back for good, and a promotional video announcing their return even made fun of Chick-fil-A’s long standing policy of keeping all its locations closed on Sundays.
The popularity of Popeye’s sandwiches means Chick-fil-A no longer has a virtual monopoly of the chicken sandwich market, but increased competition doesn’t entirely explain why the company is finally changing its philanthropic giving plan. It’s also possible that the Cathys’ politics are finally hindering the company’s expansion.
In July, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a controversial piece of legislation that supporters dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill. The law, introduced in response to the San Antonio City Council’s decision to remove a proposed Chick-fil-A location from its airport concession agreement, forbids government entities from taking “adverse actions” against businesses because of their religious beliefs or actions.
San Antonio may not have fully succeeded in kicking Chick-fil-A out of its airport, but the city’s decision seems to have sparked a new wave of backlash to Chick-fil-A. In September, the airport concession company Delaware North kicked Chick-fil-A and a few other big chains out of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in favor of local restaurants.
Across the pond, protesters managed to get the landlord of a Chick-fil-A location in Reading, England to opt out of renewing the chain’s lease just 8 days after it had opened. (A Chick-fil-A spokesperson told VICE that the lease was never supposed to last longer than six months.)
Martin Cooper, the head of Reading Pride, told a local publication that the Cathys’ charitable giving influenced the group’s opposition to the restaurant.
“We’re here to inform the community in Reading what has been allowed to set up in our town. It’s a business based on anti-LGBT beliefs,” Cooper said. “If it was just beliefs, we probably wouldn’t be here protesting. It’s about the active engagement and where their profits are going.”
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Chick-Fil-A to Stop Donating to Alleged Anti-LGBTQ+ Charities
Chick-fil-A announced new plans for their charitable donations after coming under fire for supporting alleged anti-LGBTQ+ organizations in the past.
The fast food company said on Monday that they will no longer donate funds to The Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “We made multi-year commitments to both organizations and we fulfilled those obligations in 2018,” a spokeswoman for Chick-fil-A told Thomas Reuters Foundation.
Instead, the company’s website states that Chick-fil-A Foundation is “working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness, and hunger” for 2020, and is committing $9 million to the initiative.
The website specifies which charities they will be working with: Junior Achievement USA and Covenant House International on the issues of education and homelessness, and the company also plans to donate $25,000 to a local food bank at every Chick-fil-A opening.
“The Foundation will no longer make multiyear commitments and will reassess philanthropic partnerships annually to allow maximum impact,” further explains the site. “These partnerships could include faith-based and non-faith-based charities.”
Chick-fil-A has faced backlash in the past for their charitable decisions. In March, the fast food company received scrutiny following a report from ThinkProgress, which revealed that in 2017 the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated $1.6 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and $6,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes requires a “sexual purity” policy for its employees, according to its job application. “The Bible is clear in teaching on sexual sin including sex outside of marriage and homosexual acts,” it reads. “Neither heterosexual sex outside of marriage nor any homosexual act constitute an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God.”
The Paul Anderson Youth Home allegedly “teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is ‘rage against Jesus Christ and His values,’” ThinkProgress reported.
The company also donated $115,000 to The Salvation Army in 2018. The Christian organization has a history of alleged anti-LGBTQ+ behavior, but insists they offer support to all people regardless of sexual orientation.
“We’re saddened to learn that a corporate partner has felt it necessary to divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations — areas in which The Salvation Army, as the largest social services provider in the world, is already fully committed,” they said in a statement. “We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population.”
Due to the donations, consumers have continuously arranged boycotts of the fast-food giant. The most recent was in October at the opening of the first U.K. Location. Protests were held by local LGBTQ+ rights group Reading Pride. Shortly after, Chick-fil-A announced that the location will close once the lease is up in six months.
In March, the Chick-fil-A Foundation released a statement appearing to respond to the ThinkProgress report, in which they asserted that they 𠇍o not have a political or social agenda.”
Chick-fil-A Donated $1.6 Million to Group That Bans 'Homosexual Acts' Among Employees: Report
Years after Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy made anti-LGBTQ comments in 2012, the fast food company is facing renewed scrutiny after a new report from ThinkProgress, published on Wednesday.
According to tax documents obtained by the outlet, in 2017, the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated to groups with an alleged history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination, including $1,653,416 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and $6,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes requires a “sexual purity” policy for its employees, according to its job application, which states: “The Bible is clear in teaching on sexual sin including sex outside of marriage and homosexual acts. Neither heterosexual sex outside of marriage nor any homosexual act constitute an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God.”
Meanwhile, the Paul Anderson Youth Home allegedly “teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is ‘rage against Jesus Christ and His values,&apos” ThinkProgress reports.
PEOPLE has reached out to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Paul Anderson Youth Home neither immediately responded to a request for comment.
On Thursday, the Chick-fil-A Foundation released a statement appearing to respond to the ThinkProgress report, in which they asserted that they 𠇍o not have a political or social agenda.”
“Our intention both at the corporate and restaurant level is to have a positive influence on our communities by donating to programs that benefit youth and education and are welcoming to all,” said Rodney Bullard, the Chick-fil-A Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and the Executive Director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation. “We are proud of the impact we’ve been able to make so far, and we have a lot yet to do.”
The statement continued, saying, “we have no policy of discrimination against any group. We do not have a political or social agenda and more than 120,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand.”WATCH THIS: Teen Organizes First-Ever Gay Pride Festival in Mike Pence’s Hometown
In their statement, the foundation did not deny that they had donated to the groups mentioned in the ThinkProgress report, but the statement also did not reference the groups’ alleged history of anti-LGBTQ behavior. The foundation added that, as of June 2017, they “no longer support” the Paul Anderson Youth Home.
The Chick-fil-A Foundation did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for additional comment.
As reported by Vox, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy said in 2012 that the United States was “inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and we say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.”
In response to the negative backlash that Cathy’s comments stoked, the company posted on Facebook that it would focus on chicken and “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”
Chick-fil-A is running out of sauce & Republicans are blaming… Joe Biden?
Several prominent Republicans are now blaming a dipping sauce shortage at Chick-fil-A on President Joe Biden.
“Is there no limit to how awful Biden’s America can get?” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) tweeted, linking an article about the Chick-fil-A sauce shortage.
Is there no limit to how awful Biden’s America can get?
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) May 12, 2021
Christian conservatives’ favorite fast food joint is limiting the number of small sauce packets it hands out to customers, keeping the number down to one packet per item purchased at many of its 2600 U.S. locations.
“Due to industry-wide shortages, we are currently limiting the number of sauces provided,” the chain said in a statement. “We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your understanding as we work through this.”
CNN Business says the problem is a “labor shortage and supply chain issues.” It appears to be affecting individual packets more than bottled sauces, partly because the Centers for Disease Control have recommended restaurants use individual packets to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) didn’t mention any of this when he tweeted on the matter.
“Joe Biden is destroying America,” he wrote.
American Conservative Union chair and Fox News personality Matt Schlapp said Biden “canceled the Chick-fil-A sauce pipeline.”
Joe Biden also canceled the Chick-fil-A sauce pipeline?
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) May 12, 2021
“Joe Biden’s America,” wrote Missouri Attorney General and Senate candidate Eric Schmitt (R).
Former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) also blamed “Joe Biden’s America.”
In Joe Biden’s America:
Chick-fil-A has to limit sauces because of supply chain issues.
Gas stations are having mass shortages and prices are soaring.
The price of groceries are skyrocketing.
Everyday Americans are hurting and they miss Donald Trump’s America.
— Josh Mandel (@JoshMandelOhio) May 12, 2021
As did popular rightwing podcaster Graham Allen.
Republican Congressional candidate Lavern Spicer said that Biden “is officially messing with our chicken.”
“It’s a problem,” she tweeted gravely.
Chick-Fil-A is out of sauce.
Joe Biden is officially messing with our chicken.
It’s a problem.
— Lavern Spicer (@lavern_spicer) May 12, 2021
Brigitte Gabriel of the anti-Muslim organization ACT! for America also blamed the sauce shortage on Biden.
Soon America is going to be out of gas and Chick-fil-A sauce, way to go Joe Biden!
— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) May 12, 2021
None of these people offered any explanation about how Biden is connected to the sauce shortage.
Conservatives have long felt protective of the chicken chain due to its Christian conservative donations and practices, like closing all restaurants on Sundays, as well as its homophobia.
The restaurant came under fire in 2012 when large donations to the hate group Family Research Counsel and the conversion therapy group Exodus International were uncovered.
Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy said that the business was “guilty as charged” when it came to giving to anti-LGBTQ causes, and he said that LGBTQ activists are “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.”
The right rallied in defense of the chain, and in 2019 Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) surrounded himself with Chick-fil-A products and signed what was dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill into law. The bill was, according to Abbott, going to protect the multi-billion dollar business from religion-based “discrimination.”