The Chick-fil-A boycott is in the news again, as the Texas State Senate passed a bill late Wednesday that would prohibit the government from penalizing businesses for their charitable giving.
The bill follows a dispute over the inclusion of Chick-fil-A in a San Antonio International Airport food court because of what administrators of the council called a “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”
Many condemnations of Chick-fil-A contain similar vague language:
- “notorious anti-LGBT stances”
- “widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ community”
- “the political behavior of Chick-fil-A”
- “Chick-fil-A is anti-gay”
Many boycotters seem to know little about the specific complaint of those opposed to the company; namely that WinShape, the family foundation of the company’s owners, is a financial supporter of two groups the organizers consider homophobic: the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Each charity, though, has received millions of dollars from American companies just as prominent as Chick-fil-A that have not faced boycotts. For example, the Salvation Army’s list of corporate partners include many retail giants including Amazon, American Airlines, Delta, FedEx, Krispy Kreme, Macy’s, Target, UPS, Walgreens, and Walmart. (RELATED: Despite Years Of Effort From Activists, Chick-Fil-A Poised To Become Third-Biggest Fast Food Joint)
The Salvation Army is an Evangelical Church and highly regarded international charitable organization that spends billions of dollars a year helping destitute people worldwide. The LGBT complaints against the group would apply to many — if not most — churches, particularly its support for “the traditional definition of marriage” and calls for celibacy for people with a homosexual orientation.
Accusations the Salvation Army is anti-gay are dubious. The group has devoted resources to helping the LGBT community’s unique needs. One example among many is the dorms it opened in Las Vegas and Winnipeg to offer safety and shelter to transgender and gay people who risk rejection and assault in other housing facilities. This video shows a gay recipient of Salvation Army help saying “I never once felt judged or not accepted … Some Christians just want to do good for you.”
And Bevan Dufty, an openly gay San Francisco former elected official who once represented the city’s gayest district, praised the organization, saying it “share[d] the city’s values” such as diversity and respect.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is a non-profit Christian sports ministry. Its leaders (but not its athletes) are required to sign a Statement of Faith that includes an affirmation of traditional Biblical attitudes toward family and sexuality, and to pledge not to engage in a list of activities including gay sex but also pre-marital sex, drinking, drug use, and smoking.
Like the Salvation Army, the FCA’s beliefs on sexuality are completely mainstream within Evangelical Christianity (a group that makes up as much as 41 percent of the American population).
However, the FCA has also emphasized that “all people are of great worth and value to God” and that anyone is welcome to attend the group’s activities. Organizers and participants report a welcoming, friendly organization, and LGBT complaints about the group overwhelmingly refer to its vision statements and not to any maltreatment of individual young people.
(A third group boycotters have highlighted, the Paul Anderson Youth Home, has not received any money from the foundation since 2017, when the WinShape Foundation learned of the group’s anti-gay rhetoric.)
And the family foundations linked to many businesses – including Walmart’s Walton Family Foundation; Dollar General Stores’ Cal Turner Family Foundation; the Lily Endowment (of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly); and Home Depot’s Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, have supported both the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. (RELATED: LGBTQ Caucus Kills ‘Save Chick-Fil-A’ Bill In Texas)
Boycotters have not explained why they eschew Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits but will buy books on Amazon, fly American Airlines, and take the erectile disfunction pill Cialis from Eli Lilly — all businesses that support the same supposedly homophobic charities.
The origin of the conflict suggests one explanation for the inconsistency: the boycott may aim to punish Dan Cathy, the Bible-believing, Sabbath-observing Christian owner of Chick-fil-A for his personal views on same-sex marriage. That motive simply does not apply, for example, to Home Depot’s Arthur Blank, a liberal Jew who has publicly defended the LGBT community on the issue.
The food fight began in June 2012 when Cathy stated on the radio, “I think we are 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 marriage.’”
Cathy doubled down on those remarks the following month, when he said in an interview that the chicken chain was “very much supportive of the family – the Biblical definition of the family unit.”
Following a series of protests and calls for boycotts, the famously sunny company issued a statement clarifying its respect for LGBT people and its intent to henceforth stay out of politics:
The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.
Since then, the list of Christian charities that get Chick-fil-A money has narrowed significantly, and Cathy has not given further interviews about his views on gay issues. However, the selective boycott of Chick-fil-A continues — despite manifold similarly “homophobic” donations by corporations not led by conservative Christians.
Organizers of the Facebook group “Boycott Chick-fil-A” could not be reached to explain the inconsistency.
The calls for boycott have not prevented remarkable growth by the company, which is on target this year to become the third largest restaurant chain in America (after McDonald’s and Starbucks). The company has been growing by more than 15 percent a year.