Chick-fil-A chairman Dan Cathy has admitted that the fast food chain “inadvertently discredited several outstanding organizations” in a radical shake-up of its giving last November.
Chick-fil-A ended a longstanding giving partnership with The Salvation Army after coming under pressure from LGBT campaigners, a move that prompted outcry from both the organisation and Christian leaders.
Giving partnerships with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Paul Anderson Youth Home were also ended.
As part of the restructuring, the fried chicken outlet, founded on Christian principles by S Truett Cathy, said it would be focusing on three initiatives: education, homelessness and hunger.
Chick-fil-A president and chief operating officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow: “There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are. There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”
The announcement came not long after Chick-fil-A’s first UK branch in Reading, England, was forced to close after protests by Pride campaigners.
In a response at the time, The Salvation Army strenuously denied being anti-LGBT and said it had been the victim of “misinformation”.
“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,” it said.
“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.
“When misinformation is perpetuated without fact, our ability to serve those in need, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or any other factor, is at risk.
“We urge the public to seek the truth before rushing to ill-informed judgment and greatly appreciate those partners and donors who ensure that anyone who needs our help feels safe and comfortable to come through our doors.”
The American Family Association (AFA) this week disclosed a written response from Dan Cathy in which he said that Chick-fil-A’s Christian-based Corporate Purpose was not waning.
The company’s Corporate Purpose states that it exists “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us”.
In his letter to the AFA, Cathy wrote: “As you have seen, recently we announced changes to our giving strategy at the Chick-fil-A Foundation.
“These changes were made to better focus on hunger, homelessness and education. We understand how some thought we were abandoning our long-standing support of faith-based organizations.
“We inadvertently discredited several outstanding organizations that have effectively served communities for years. Some also questioned if our commitment to our Corporate Purpose was waning. Let me state unequivocally: It is not.”
The letter came after an AFA petition asking Chick-fil-A for clarification on the changes was signed by 116,000 people.
American Family Radio President Tim Wildmon called Cathy’s comments “a welcomed clarification.”
“It appears that Mr. Cathy understands how many evangelicals perceived the company’s decision, as he stated that these Christian groups were ‘inadvertently discredited,'” he said.
“The fact that Dan Cathy called these two Christian groups ‘outstanding organizations’ will mean a lot to evangelicals.”
However, he expressed concern over Chick-fil-A’s giving to the pro-LGBT charity Covenant House.
“I also mentioned in my initial letter that Chick-fil-A stated that the company would support Covenant House, a ministry to homeless youth, including homosexual young people,” he said.
“While it is admirable to help hurting youth in desperate circumstances –– including those who are LGBTQ –– Covenant House also openly promotes homosexuality as normal, natural, and healthy.
“This was evident in Covenant House’s participation in the NYC gay pride parade and a number of other efforts that make it clear the ministry does not hold to a biblical view of human sexuality.
“As a result, AFA will continue to monitor Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving, at least for the foreseeable future. We believe our supporters rely on us to do so.”