Keeping track of Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay ties

This summer, controversy raged for months over Chick-fil-A’s history of donating to anti-gay groups. I’m sure many of you care deeply about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in your lives, and some of you may have made the decision to boycott the chain in response to these revelations. I’d like to share some of my own research into Chick-fil-A’s anti-LGBTQ donations with you, and I hope you’ll come to agree that it’s still a bad idea to “eat mor chikin.”

Last month, a handful of news outlets reported that Chick-fil-A’s newly released 2011 tax filings for its charitable foundation, WinShape, indicate that the corporation’s donations to various anti-gay groups were nearly twice those it made in 2010. This information contradicts some claims made earlier this year that the corporation had begun scaling back on its donations to anti-gay groups prior to this summer’s media frenzy surrounding the corporation’s contributions to organizations with anti-gay agendas.

Although these documents show that Chick-fil-A did in fact end its donations to groups like Exodus International (an “ex-gay” Christian organization) and the Family Research Council (classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), they also increased their contributions to other, if less extreme, anti-gay organizations.  According to statements made by Chick-fil-A executives in the wake of this summer’s controversy, the corporation’s “intent is to not support political or social agendas,” but among the organizations which received donations from WinShape in 2011 are groups which fight against marriage equality and actively discriminate against LGBTQ people.  WinShape itself has stated that it defines marriage as being between one man and one woman—is that not a political or social agenda? WinShape’s largest contribution is to the Marriage and Family Foundation, and, like Chick-fil-A and Winshape, it was founded by members of the Cathy family. Every year, this foundation invites some of the most extreme opponents of marriage equality a conference it sponsors at Winshape Retreats in Georgia. Additionally, WinShape gave significant amounts to the National Christian Foundation, which distributes grants to (among others) the Family Research Council and gives its donors complete control of where the money goes. It’s possible, then, that Chick-fil-A hasn’t ceased its donations to Family Research Council at all.

Admittedly, these donations occurred in 2011, and they may not reflect the company’s activities today.  That said, I remain skeptical that Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family have any intention of removing their financial support for anti-gay organizations, especially considering there is a complete lack of evidence to suggest otherwise. To date, has Chick-fil-A never officially commented on or confirmed reports that they are stopping these donations, and in September of last year, CEO Dan Cathy assured his supporters that his company had not changed its “practices and priorities.” It also seems unlikely that the company will remove funding for the Cathy’s own Marriage and Family Foundation.

Dan Cathy has made his stance on LGBTQ equality obvious enough, and unfortunately, he puts his customers’ money where his mouth is. Whether or not he changes his mind about marriages between gay and lesbian couples is of little concern to me. Instead, I call this story to your attention because I hope it allows you to reflect upon the types of messages you endorse when you give business to Chick-fil-A and other businesses with very public anti-equality stances. I’m sure most students at Trinity consider themselves to be friends and allies to the LGBTQ community, but knowingly supporting anti-LGBTQ causes, even indirectly, is not in line with support of your LGBTQ friends.

Caitlin Gallagher is a senior majoring in urban studies and economics.