A Breakdown of the Homophobia of Chick-fil-A

My most popular article I ever wrote for Her Campus was about why you should boycott the Salvation Army because of homophobic and religiously-based discrimination (read it here if you haven’t). But honestly, some sources I read I never heard of before, and the Salvation Army is a worldwide company, meaning allegations and cases took place in different countries and across decades. But this article is different. This is happening now, and it is happening across 1,600 restaurants, and 39 states. Chick-fil-A is becoming increasingly popular and if you are part of the LGBT+ community, care about anyone who is, or are a decent human being, you’ll take a pledge a realize that fried chicken just isn’t worth ruining millions of lives.

So let’s start at the beginning. Dan T. Cathy is the chairman, president, and CEO of Chick-fil-A and his father, S. Truett Cathy, founded Chick-fil-A in 1967. Ever since then, it’s no secret Chick-fil-A was created with Christian values under its belt, in fact it’s even be accused of being a Christian cult before. “Its corporate purpose is to ‘glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us’ and ‘to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.’ All of its locations are closed on Sunday.” (Source: CNN). In 2011, the restaurant chain donated food to a group that was very outspoken about being homophobic. Not too long after, Equality Matters, an online investigative organization dedicated to gay and lesbian issues, gained access to the company’s tax records. Chick-fil-A was linked to a foundation called the WinShape Foundation founded by none other than the same man who founded Chick-fil-A. The Cathy family had given millions to groups for conversion therapy destruction of marriage equality. Really makes you hate fried chicken, huh? (Source: NY Times: Chick-fil-A Thrust Back Into Spotlight on Gay Rights).

When the world first found out about this, it didn’t go well. Members of the LGBT+ community held “kiss-in”s, and homophobes pressured for a Chick-fil-A appreciation day on social media that Facebook temporarily removed the company page as spam. Some politicians tweeted Chick-fil-A in support, and some mailed Cathy letters telling him that he was not allowed to open restaurants in their areas. The angelic Jim Henson Company was supplying the kids toys at the time of this controversy, and they made a statement that the money they made from their Chick-fil-A partnership was going to be donated to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defiance, then Chick-fil-A claimed a fault of their toys to recall it and cancel the partnership (sounds fake, but okay). NYTimes spoke to Jeff Graham, the executive director of the gay rights group Georgia Equality, who said he was just waiting for Chick-fil-A to release an anti-discriminatory policy. (Source: NY Times). I looked into it, and “Their employment nondiscrimination policy doesn’t include LGBT people, they don’t do any diversity training on LGBT issues, and they certainly don’t have any pro-LGBT messaging anywhere. You won’t find two women splitting a chicken sandwich in their commercials” (Source: The Daily Beast).

The tax filings for the WinShape Foundation in 2012 had a funny shift, where a lot more funding was spent on programs such as summer camps, scholarships, marriage retreats, foster care, and other nice things. Of course, all of the programs were sponsored by WinShape, so they were heavily Christian-based, but they weren’t as bad as conversion therapy! Now, there were separate filings for a new foundation called the Chick-fil-A foundation. And actually, there wasn’t any funding for more of the extremist anti-LGBT+ groups they supported in the past. Controversially questionable groups were still getting support. There’s also the possibility Chick-fil-A decreased their funding to groups to gain support, because Cathy commented that he didn’t want his company, or WinShape, to be involved in politics or social problems in 2013. Cathy has never denied or apologized for supporting anti-equality groups. (Source: Go Q Notes: New Chick-fil-A filings show decrease in anti-LGBT funding).

Between 2012 and 2016, the Chick-fil-A Foundation earned about $7 million annually and donated to a range of conservative groups, but neither foundation of the Cathy family is strictly funding anti-LGBT efforts, although they do fund groups that exclude LGBT+ representation. According to The Daily Beast, it’s unfair that Chick-fil-A has earned itself this homophobic label because of essentially one group (*cough cough* the Exodus International) that took their money for conversion therapy. And although most of their donations are going to good causes in more recent years and they’ve cleaned up their act, I can’t agree. The Daily Beast makes a completely valid point that the Dan T. Cathy is a devoted Christian who owns a successful business, and he runs his business with the morals that he has, which he has the right to do. Unfortunately, I draw the line when your morals drive you to giving millions of dollars to brainwashing people because you think they’re broken. (Source: The Daily Beast: Why Chick-fil-A Still Hurts: Queer Trauma in the Age of Trump).  

And here we are in 2019, and we found out that Chick-fil-A gave money to anti-LGBT groups in 2017. Here are the exact numbers and names for you, found in a newly released tax filing: “$1,653,416 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, $6,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and $150,000 to the Salvation Army” (ThinkProgress). The total is more than 1.8 million dollars, and is mostly from the treasury and shares of the company. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a religious organization that “seeks to spread an anti-LGBTQ message to college athletes and requires a strict ‘sexual purity’ policy for its employees that bars any ‘homosexual acts’” and the Paul Anderson Youth Home is a Christian residential home for “troubled” youth that basically brainwashes boys to be heterosexual, and they believe that “same-sex marriage is ‘rage against Jesus Christ and His values’. And the controversy of the Salvation Army is covered right here on Her Campus. (Source: ThinkProgress: Chick-fil-A donated to anti-LGBTQ group that bars employees from ‘homosexual acts’).

Cathy was chosen to give a speech at an equality conference in 2018, and ThinkProgress was so confused that their president interviewed the conference’s president about it, and he was told that after 2018, the only group they fund to really worry about was the Salvation Army because comparing how much Chick-fil-A cleaned up from their charity work 2010-2012 to 2016-2018 was phenomenal to him. Cathy never gave the speech at the conference, ThinkProgress couldn't confirm why. (Source: ThinkProgress).

The repercussions were strong at first. The San Antonio City Council signed an amendment to remove an agreement that allowed Chick-fil-A to move in to the San Antonio International Airport. Councilman Roberto Treviño released a beautiful statement, part of which as follows: “San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior. Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport.” (Source: Eater). Less than two weeks later, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport decided to boycott Chick-fil-A as well. Chick-fil-A has released a statement about getting dropped by the two airports: “Recent coverage about Chick-fil-A continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about our brand. We do not have a political or social agenda or discriminate against any group. More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand. We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity”. Unfortunately, Chick-fil-A isn’t being dropped because it “embraces” the wrong people, it’s because it donates money to ruining lives. (Source: Eater).

There will be a Chick-fil-A at the San Jose Airport, but the local council voted unanimously to display pride flags at opening. This is because of Paul Escobar, president of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, a LGBT+ political action group. Escobar tried his best to protest Chick-fil-A moving in, but when he learned that didn’t work, he worked with Ken Yeager, the first openly gay elected official of the Santa Clara County. (Source: CBN News: San Jose Decides to Display Rainbow Flags Near Its New Airport Chick-fil-A).

Ryder University announced that it would no longer be considering Chick-fil-A as a new on-campus dining option because the study body showed a big opposition to the restaurant’s bad reputation. Good decision, in my opinion. But that’s not what news sources are talking about. Dropping Chick-fil-A led to the Dean of Ryder University to step down from her position. She claimed that she made the wrong assumptions about the company, and the Christian values aligned with her own. The Dean asked the administrators to apologize to Christians, and then stepped down. A spokesperson told CNN that they still won’t accept Chick-fil-A on campus, but not for religious reasons (Source: A dean is stepping down over her university's decision to drop Chick-fil-A).   

So where do we move from here? It’s hard to say. I, a #lesbian, won’t be eating at Chick-fil-A. Here’s why. I know that the money I hand to the cashier most likely isn’t going directly into some sketchy home filled with creepy Christians that are going to brainwash prepubescent boys. However, I can’t do this alone. And the next person who decides to boycott Chick-fil-A can’t do this alone. And I’m doing it with him. And he’s doing it with the next person. And eventually down the road, we have Ryder University and two airports. So as time goes on, I want to see what happens. Will the Cathy family have the balls to continue donating to questionable groups, or will they bite the bullet and decide that the opinion of the public (and more importantly the decent human rights of children) is worth dropping the groups?

I don’t see Cathy ever dropping an apology for funding any of the groups he funded, because in his eyes he has nothing to be sorry for except for letting his taxes be seen online. If anything, I wish the restaurant chain and the person who owns it were not so closely knit. Chick-fil-A is a crazy success story, it started in a suburban mall in the ‘60s and is now in over 1,000 locations.

The staff is known to be incredibly friendly, and the food is down-right amazing, but “the trick to succeeding…[is]convincing enough of the populace that it’s all about the chicken, and none about the homophobia” (Source: eater).