Chick-fil-A has taken great pains to downplay its anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and giving, seven years into a national boycott by LGBTQ and allied diners. But contrary to the company’s latest claims that it has no political or social agenda, newly released tax filings show that, in 2017, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave more than $1.8 million to a trio of groups with a record of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The donations — $1,653,416 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, $6,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and $150,000 to the Salvation Army — actually represent a slight increase from the previous year. The foundation’s funding comes almost entirely from the corporate treasury and shares leadership with 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.” Paul Anderson Youth Home, a “Christian residential home for trouble youth,” teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is “rage against Jesus Christ and His values.”
The Salvation Army has a long record of opposing legal protections for LGBTQ Americans and at the time of the donations had a written policy of merely complying with local “relevant employment laws.” The organization’s website has since changed to indicate a national policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Chick-fil-A is one of a dwindling number of companies that still refuses to include explicit protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in its employment non-discrimination policy and received a zero from the Human Rights Campaign in its annual buyers guide. Back in 2012, Chick-fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy opined that America is “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 a marriage.”
When pressed about the company’s anti-gay positions, he responded “Well, guilty as charged.” A national boycott ensured, as well as a counter-protest “appreciation day” led by then-Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R).
In the wake of the bad publicity, the company posted a Facebook statement that it would focus on making chicken and “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.” Cathy wooed a prominent LGBTQ activist in 2013 and spun him into believing the company was scaling back its anti-equality giving.
It did not do so. Last summer, ThinkProgress reported that Cathy had been selected to give a keynote speech at an “equality” conference being held by the International Economic Development Council. The council’s president, Jeff Finkle, told ThinkProgress in a phone interview at the time that Chick-fil-A had made similar claims of reform.
“I think if you look at where their donations were in 2010, 2011, and 2012 — and where they are in 2018 and in the future — I think you’ll see a company that is changing,” Finkle said.
Asked about the anti-LGBTQ donations in 2016, he added, “They said, after this year, there’s only gonna be one group left that some people in the LGBTQ community will object to — that’s the Salvation Army. They told us from now forward they are ceasing all the other contributions that have been deemed offensive.” (Cathy’s name was removed from the event website prior to the September conference.)
The 2017 numbers show — at least for that year — that did not change.
Reached for comment on Tuesday, Chick-fil-A, Inc. said the company had made a decision in 2017 to no longer donate to the Paul Anderson Youth Home moving forward. “In 2017, a decision was made by the Chick-fil-A Foundation to no longer donate to the group after a blog post from 2010 surfaced that does not meet Chick-fil-A’s commitment to creating a welcoming environment to all,” the company told ThinkProgress.
However the company has not ended its contributions to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or Salvation Army. It explained that its donations to those groups had been used to support summer sports camps and various children’s programs, respectively.
“[S]ince the Chick-fil-A Foundation was created in 2012, our giving has always focused on youth and education,” the company said. “We have never donated with the purpose of supporting a social or political agenda. There are 140,000 people — black, white; gay, straight; Christian, non-Christian — who represent Chick-fil-A. We are the sum of many experiences, but what we all have in common is a commitment to providing great food, genuine hospitality, and a welcoming environment to all of our guests.”
Chick-fil-A’s practices made headlines again in recent weeks, after Rider University in New Jersey declined to consider putting a location on campus, in light of the company’s record. The company similarly told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December, “We have no policy of discrimination against any group, and we do not have a political or social agenda.”
The then-dean of Rider’s College of Business Administration, a self-described “committed follower of Jesus Christ,” announced earlier this month that she had resigned over the decision and felt like she had “been punched in the stomach” when the school would not apologize for criticizing Chick-fil-A’s “corporate values,” which she said were “exactly” like her own.