“Closed on Sundays/ you’re my Chick-fil-A,” sang new Christian convert Kanye West on his highly publicized new album, “Jesus Is King.” But the free publicity from one of the most high-profile Christians in America wasn’t enough to shore up the fast-food brand against the pressures of activist-journalists urging the public to “cancel” Chick-fil-A for not just its leadership’s biblical stance on sexuality and marriage, but the stance of even the charities it donates to.
As business publication Bisnow reported, company leadership “felt a new message was needed — especially in foreign markets, where the most prominent brand exposure to Chick-fil-A are headlines about its support for organizations with anti-LGBT stances.”
The company is thus slashing the number of charities it donates to from 300 to two, plus various food banks, to address three areas of focus: hunger, education, and homelessness. “Future partners could include faith-based and non-faith-based charities, but the company said none of the organizations have anti-LGBT positions,” Bisnow reported.
It is unclear whether faith-based organizations need to explicitly denounce Christianity itself or the traditional view of sexuality in order to receive Chick-fil-A’s donations, it means their work never aggravates LGBT activists, or something else, but the company’s decision to halt donations to the Salvation Army suggests the threshhold for not having “anti-LGBT positions” is high. After all, the Salvation Army runs a shelter for transgender people in Los Angeles.
As Chick-fil-A expands internationally, a company executive told Bisnow that charitable giving to Christian organizations was inhibiting the chain’s growth. In Reading, England, a mall landlord refused to renew a pop-up restaurant lease because the mall is supposed to be “an inclusive space where everyone is welcome.” A flurry of protesters also showed up to demonstrate on the opening day of the restaurant’s first location in Toronto.
Being Out about Christianity Didn’t Hurt Chick-Fil-A
Despite losing the business of an entire day of the week because it’s closed on Sundays, the chicken sandwich franchise is poised to become the third largest fast-food chain in the United States. If the brand has been damaged, sales don’t seem to reflect it. In 2012 it passed $5 billion in revenue, even after its CEO Dan Cathy said he was “guilty as charged” regarding the company’s support of “the biblical definition of the family unit.”
“We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy had said.
Despite Chick-fil-A’s lack of any policies that discriminate against sexual minorities, such as refusing to hire or serve them, its reputation for being “anti-LGBT” due to its support for Christianity has also generated severe resistance here in the United States from landlords and city governments. This last March, Chick-fil-A was denied a concessions deal for the San Antonio airport.
San Antonio Councilmember Robert Trevino, who voted against including Chick-fil-A in the deal, said the city was “full of compassion,” and that they “do not have room” in their public facilities “for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.” Chick-fil-A lost a planned deal for concessions at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and will be dropped from a lease at San Jose airport in 2026.
Left Defines Hateful as Being Christian
That reputation for being “hateful” and “anti-LGBT” mostly stems from the company’s former charitable giving to organizations that support the traditional family and therapy to assist those with unwanted same-sex desires. The company has previously given to the Family Research Council and the now-disbanded Exodus International, a group that promoted “ex-gay therapy” and whose president apologized for the “trauma” and “stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope” he said people experienced from his organization.
Last year, Chick-fil-A Foundation gave $115,000 to the Salvation Army and $1.65 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. FCA policy condemns “sex outside marriage and ‘homosexual acts,’” Bisnow reported. The Salvation Army has been accused of anti-LGBT discrimination, but the organization says it is “committed to serving the LGBTQ community” by providing shelter, job training, nutrition, suicide prevention, and help with substance abuse.
In the past the chicken chain has been clear about its Christian influences. Cathy said in 2012 that the corporation “is based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us.”
“We’re talking about how our performance in the workplace should be the focus of how we build respect, rapport and relationships with others that opens the gateway to interest people in knowing God,” Baptist Press reported Cathy as saying.
This new messaging is expressly meant to overcome the perception of being “anti-LGBT” that has stalled the mega-chain’s growth in some cases. It appears the almighty dollar might be exerting a bit more influence over Chick-fil-A than devotion to the Almighty God, even if that profit potential is being stymied by legislators, journalists, and lobby groups hostile to the Christian position on sexuality and family structure.
Capitulation Only Puts Blood in the Water
It remains to be seen whether restructuring its charitable giving will appease Chick-fil-A’s critics. If past experience is any indication, the pressure will not yield.
The left generates a steady stream of boycotts, bans, and attempts to censor and limit the influence of people whose opinions are grounded in biblical principles. Several years ago, Firefox CEO Brandon Eich was ousted for supporting Proposition 8 in California, which would have prohibited same-sex marriage.
In March, a Michigan policy allowing adoption agencies to cite religious convictions in declining to work with LGBT clients was reversed after a lawsuit. In Colorado, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop has continued to face persecution by activists after the Supreme Court determined his state prosecution for declining to participate in same-sex weddings was rife with anti-religious animus.
More than 100 actors and small production companies vowed to boycott Georgia over its pro-life “heartbeat bill,” and the city of San Francisco “blacklisted” 22 states that limit abortion access by limiting contracting and prohibiting travel by state employees to those states on the company’s dime. The city had already blacklisted nine states for LGBT-related policies. The California Assembly arguably banned sales of the Bible and any literature that doesn’t affirm nonheterosexuality.
Public figures on the right have repeatedly been denied speaking gigs on college campuses because of their views, most famously Ben Shapiro. Even likeable actor Chris Pratt faced a swift backlash on social media when it was revealed his church did not hire homosexuals into leadership. Indeed, how many entertainers and business leaders have we seen cave to pressure and issue the “correct” statement after their social media struggle sessions?
The media’s effort to paint Chick-fil-A as “anti-LGBT” will not stop just because they’ve restructured their charitable giving. If the charities are no longer a focus, then the statements and principles of its leaders will be, even if they don’t affect how the company is run.
The focus will shift back to Cathy and any leadership who align with his beliefs, possibly leading to the ousting of any leadership that have spoken out in favor of the biblical family or associated with people who have done so. It may just be a matter of time before Chick-fil-A ceases to call itself an organization “based on Biblical principles.”