May 16, 2019; ThinkProgress
Facing greater public scrutiny and negative coverage for its ongoing financial support for nonprofits that discriminate against LGBTQ persons, the Chick-fil-A Foundation used a statement on its website to clarify its position. The statement, however, may have made matters worse. According to the foundation, it does not matter if gift recipients themselves practice or promote discrimination so long as children are helped—as if one had no relationship to the other. Of course, Chick-fil-A’s statement ignores the fact that some of those children identify as LGBTQ themselves or are being raised by LGBTQ parents or caregivers.
ThinkProgress reported in March that the Chick-fil-A Foundation distributed $1.8 million in 2017 to nonprofits with a history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination—contrary to repeated promises that it was winding down its giving to groups that discriminate. This included more than $1.6 million in contributions to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a religious group that works to spread an anti-LGBTQ message to college athletes, requiring a strict “sexual purity” policy for its employees that bars any “homosexual acts.”
In an interview with Business Insider, Rodney Bullard, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of corporate responsibility and executive director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, stated:
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. For us, that’s a much higher calling than any political or cultural war that is 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.
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Bullard’s statement continues the “have one’s cake and eat it, too” public relations campaign that Chick-fil-A has pursued throughout this situation. Bullard and the company unintentionally minimize the pain, suffering, and harm to LGBTQ children that the practices and teachings of organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes inflict by dismissing them. One cannot separate the essential values of an organization from its actions; otherwise, they are not essential values.
“To suggest that our efforts in supporting these organizations was focused on suppressing a group of people is misleading and inaccurate,” the fast food chain’s statement reads. “It is well known that our founder S. Truett Cathy used biblical principles to guide our business in its formative stages, and that we still uphold those same principles today.”
Bullard expanded on the website statement, telling Business Insider that Chick-fil-A would consider donating to an LGBTQ organization if the partnership was “impactful” and “authentic.”
Chick-fil-A has yet to own its position fully and tries repeatedly and unsuccessfully to cover itself with one fig leaf or another. Still, the company has suffered no significant economic losses due to the various protests, boycotts, and the few symbolic planned restaurant cancellations. A so-called “Save Chick-fil-A” bill written to protect business owners that support traditional Christian values has been moving around the Texas state legislature, and other legislatures have passed religious belief-based discrimination bills for businesses or are set to do so. The chain enjoys robust support from politicians, and many theologically conservative Christians thoroughly approve of the company and its positions. Additionally, right-wing evangelical Christians are at a political high-water mark, as the Trump administration and its allies are actively fulfilling evangelical policy priorities on issues from school choice to abortion. Chick-fil-A likely feels quite comfortable exactly where it stands.—Skip Lockwood