March 22, 2019; Vox
Seven years ago, Chick-Fil-A, the third-largest fast-food brand in the United States, weathered a public relations hurricane over its more than $2 million in financial support for anti-LGBTQ organizations. Now, it finds itself again facing public scrutiny and outrage for failing to honor its apology and uphold its pledge to “treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation.”
ThinkProgress recently reviewed Chick-Fil-A Foundation’s 2017 financial giving, discovering that three organizations with conspicuous anti-LGBTQ policies or educational teachings—the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Salvation Army, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home—received more than $1.8 million. These donations run counter to assertions made by Chick-Fil-A executives and corporate spokespersons in the wake of the 2011–12 fracas.
Jeff Finkle, president of the International Economic Development Council, noted in 2016, “They told us from now forward they are ceasing all other contributions that have been deemed offensive.” Recent 990 filings and the work by ThinkProgress demonstrate the hollowness of Chick-Fil-A’s words and actions.
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Pursuing a public relations strategy of “have one’s cake and eat it, too,” has been successful for the company, as Chick-Fil-A sales increased more than 10 percent after the 2012 debacle and the value of the company has soared, making the Cathy family, owners of Chick-Fil-A, billionaires. If the Chick-Fil-A Foundation operated on public donations, it would face a significant loss of public trust for willfully deceiving donors. As members of the Cathy family support it, the foundation’s requirement to be responsive extends only to select benefactors.
CEO Dan Cathy and other family members serving with him on the Chick-Fil-A Foundation’s board of directors are active members of the Southern Baptist Convention. They adhere to a strict, fundamentalist interpretation of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Opposition to LGBTQ equality and support for “one man/one woman” marriage is a central tenet of their theology and a prime motivator for their support of discriminatory religious organizations. At the most basic level, Cathy and family see their positions not as unfair but as the fulfillment of their ethical obligations.
The company’s and CEO’s ongoing duplicity is an affront to the beliefs they claim to hold. Integrity is a central pillar of Christianity. Jesus states in the Sermon on the Mount, “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Affirming equality for LGBTQ persons on one hand while providing substantial financial support to organizations that consider such elements as abominable violates the teachings of Jesus and cheapens the Christian brand that Cathy and the company seek to hold up as the underpinning for their business.—Skip Lockwood