Xtra Weekly
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Chick-fil-A has promised to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ2 organizations

Here’s your Xtra Weekly, Nov. 22

Chick-fil-A is not supporting homophobic organizations
Credit: The Associated Press/Mike Stewart; Francesca Roh/Xtra

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WEEKLY EXPLAINER

After major backlash from queer and trans communities and allies, Chick-fil-A announced that the company will no longer donate to charities with anti-LGBTQ2 views.

Here’s the background 👉 For years, Chick-fil-A has donated millions of dollars to groups that discriminate against LGBTQ2 people.

In 2010, WinShape Foundation, a charity started by the founder of Chick-fil-A, donated $1.9 million to various groups that oppose same-sex marriage. The following year, it was revealed that the company had been donating to anti-LGBTQ2 groups as far back as 2003. In a radio interview in 2012, current CEO Dan Cathy said both he and the company do not support gay marriage because of religious values central to Chick-fil-A’s operations—values that they’ve followed since devout Baptist S. Truett Cathy opened the first restaurant in Atlanta in 1967.

Which leads us to today, as Cathy’s values continue to influence the fast-food chain’s operations. For example, it closes shop on Sundays because, as outlined on its website, “[Our founder] 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.”

This practice isn’t the only one rooted in religion. The company’s former mission statement, which is no longer available to view on its website, was: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The effect of religious values goes beyond the company’s day-to-day operations. It’s been revealed that the company has donated money to a conversion therapy organization, Exodus International, which shut down in 2013. Some former leaders of Exodus later wrote an open letter acknowledging that conversion therapy is harmful.

When protests from the LGBTQ2 community grew more prevalent, the owners of Chick-fil-A began to downplay their opinions on gay rights. In 2012, WinShape Foundation released a statement that said Chick-fil-A promised to “no longer give to anti-gay organizations, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage.”

In a 2014 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cathy said he regretted being involved in discussions on gay marriage, but still asserted his beliefs. “I know others feel very different from that and I respect their opinion and I hope that they would be respectful of mine,” he told the AJC. “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.”

But despite promises to do better, Chick-fil-A continued to donate large sums of money to organizations affiliated with anti-LGBTQ2 causes: Nearly $2 million in 2016, and, as ThinkProgress reported earlier this year, more than $1.8 million in 2017.

This record is why the opening of new Chick-fil-A restaurants were met with protests in Toronto and the U.K. (The objections were so great that the U.K. branch announced its closure days after opening.)

So, about this new announcement… In an interview with Bisnow earlier this week, Chick-fil-A President Tim Tassopoulos said: “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.”

Bisnow reports that the company will no longer donate to organizations that have been criticized for their discriminatory stance on LGBTQ2 issues and communities.

Though Chick-fil-A has donated to more than 300 charitable organizations this year, it will shift its focus to three core areas—education, homelessness and hunger—and give to one accompanying charity working in each sector going forward.

The reaction. Some social conservatives criticized Chick-fil-A’s decision. In a column, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrote, “Chick-fil-A didn’t just switch their giving practices, they broadcasted it. They made a conscious choice to draw attention to this very public divorce from two Bible-believing charities. And then, in a calculated move, announced their support was going to an organization that, on its website, openly and proudly supports everything about the LGBT community.”

In a tweet, former Republican Governor Mike Huckabee said, “@ChickfilA betrayed loyal customers for $$. I regret believing they would stay true to convictions of founder Truett Cathey [sic]. Sad.”

In a statement to The Advocate, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said that although Chick-fil-A’s announcement seems positive, people should remember that the company “still does not have workplace protections and policies that are fully inclusive of LGBTQ people.”

Drew Anderson, director of campaigns for the LGBTQ organization GLAAD, said in a statement that “If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families.”

Both GLAAD and HRC reminded the public to remain skeptical—in the past, Chick-fil-A has promised to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations, but it has yet to follow through on that promise.

Since the story’s publication, Evangelical pastor Franklin Graham said he spoke to Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy. In the post, Graham wrote: “I picked up the phone and called Dan Cathy. Dan was very clear that they have not bowed down to anyone’s demands, including the LGBTQ community. They will continue to support whoever they want to support. They haven’t changed who they are or what they believe. Chick-fil-A remains committed to Christian values.”

Where the company stands still remains a mystery to the public.

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