It is the most profitable fast-food chain in the United States. It has increased sales every year since its founding in 1967. This privately-held company has always been driven by Biblical principles evidenced, in part, by being closed on Sunday – The Lord’s Day. In 2012, after two separate statements by the CEO, the company was called out for being anti-gay, and supporting causes with an anti-LGBTQ agenda. That same year, the corporate foundation made six donations: Habitat for Humanity, Covenant House, Raising Expectation, Phoenix Boys Association, the United Negro Fund and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Is this company building up communities or discriminating against them? Will the real Chick-Fil-A please stand up?
Truett Cathy was born in 1921 in Eatonton, Georgia. He grew up in the nation’s first federally subsidized housing project. His paper route helped support the family during the Great Depression. After high school, he was drafted by the U.S. Army. Upon his return from service, he opened a restaurant with his brother called The Dwarf Grill (now, Dwarf House). This is where the infamous chicken sandwich was developed. Three years later, his two brothers died in an airplane accident.
Running the restaurant was a family affair. His wife and three children regularly helped. Truett explained “we were all family, working together. For us, family, business, and church weren’t separate aspects of our life. They all blended in together.”
The first Chick-Fil-A opened in 1967. Twenty years later, Cathy launched WinShape Homes, a foster care program. This was the bedrock of The WinShape Foundation which offers team building, youth camps, marriage enrichment and college leadership programs all deeply rooted in the Christian faith. The Foundation has $382M of assets. Chick-Fil-A has always been a major donor.
The Chick-Fil-A Foundation was created in 2012, the same year that CEO, Dan Cathy, made the following comment to the Biblical Reporter that resulted in calls for a nationwide boycott and accusations of homophobia.
“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families – some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families.”
In a follow up interview, he added “As it relates to society in general, I think we are 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.“
Following, Chick-Fil-A’s charitable donations began drawing scrutiny because of the beneficiaries’ views on, and/or actions against, gay marriage. The three most notable were the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Paul Anderson Youth Home and the Salvation Army. In 2019, Chick-Fil-A announced a change to its charitable foundation. It will no longer donate to organizations criticized for being anti-LGBTQ.
Around the same time, it led the effort to raise $5 million to revitalize Atlanta’s Westside, a historically black neighborhood and center of the Civil Rights Movement. Last summer, following George Floyd’s death, Dan Cathy publicly urged white Christians to fight for their black brothers and sisters.
Over its history, Chick-Fil-A has awarded $110 million in scholarships to employees, granted $12 million to operator-nominated nonprofit organizations, and donated surplus food to shelters through its 1,100 franchises.
How do we reconcile these differences? Is someone who believes in traditional marriage automatically anti-gay? Is it possible to reject the values of a donor who gives $115,000 to the Salvation Army, and still accept the donation of $125,000 to Junior Achievement? Will the proceeds from your chicken sandwich support any of these charitable activities? Should we listen to the words of a CEO or watch the actions of thousands of franchisees?
What questions are you asking yourself? Which Chick-Fil-A stands up for you?