By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) – The website for the WinShape Foundation, a group started by Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy that’s financed almost entirely by Chick-fil-A profits, doesn’t look like a battlefield in the culture war.
The site features warm and fuzzy snapshots of winding country roads and rustic cabins along with links to a cornucopia of social welfare programs the foundation funds – from foster homes to kids’ camps to college scholarships – that would seem to be the furthest thing from controversial.
The foundation's “simple but profound goal” is also hard to take issue with: “Help ‘shape winners.’ ”
But gay rights groups are incensed about the chain’s financial support for what they say are anti-gay groups. WinShape-backed groups deny that accusation, while WinShape stresses its activities are almost entirely aimed at youth and families, as opposed to conservative advocacy.
Yet WinShape finds itself in the center of a storm over gay rights and religious liberties as Americans take sides in the controversy over Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s recently reaffirmed opposition to same-sex marriage.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
"We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit," Dan Cathy, Truett’s son, said in an interview last month. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
The comments sparked a tsunami of criticism from gay rights advocates and their allies, with a same-sex kiss day at Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide scheduled for Friday. (Supporters rallied around the chain Wednesday, with an event dubbed Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.)
But gay rights groups appear even more concerned about Chick-fil-A’s charitable giving, most of which is funneled through WinShape. The group received more than $8 million from Chick-fil-A in 2010, the most recent years for which tax records are available.
A fact sheet about Chick-fil-A recently issued by the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay rights group, aims its ire mostly at WinShape.
The fact sheet, titled “Chick-fil-A anti-gay: Company funnels millions to anti-equality groups,” says that the “popular fast food chain has donated millions to groups that demonize (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people on a daily basis.”
The document enumerates what it calls Chick-fil-A’s “shocking donations” to evangelical groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Focus on the Family.
Other gay rights groups have also zeroed in on WinShape’s donations.
A 2011 report from Equality Matters, an arm of the liberal group Media Matters Action Network, said the restaurant’s “charitable division has provided more than $1.1 million to organizations that deliver anti-LGBT messages and promote egregious practices like reparative therapy that seek to ‘free’ people of being gay.”
The WinShape-backed groups that gay rights advocates accuse of being anti-gay reject that label, insisting that they condemn homosexual acts, not gay people.
“Those Christian groups don’t see themselves as hateful organizations – it’s a completely different perspective,” said Rusty Leonard, a financial adviser who counsels Christians on charitable giving and who knows the Cathy family. “But as conservative Christians we believe that homosexual activity is sinful.”
Most WinShape-backed groups, such as Focus on the Family and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, are mostly apolitical and are mainstream within the evangelical world.
At the same time, the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center has classified some WinShape-backed organizations, such as the Family Research Council, as anti-gay hate groups.
WinShape spends the vast majority of its money on internal programs like its camps, which cost $5 million to run in 2010, and foster homes, which cost $3.2 million that year.
By comparison, the organization gave $1,000 to Family Research Council in 2010 and $1,000 to Exodus International, a group that for years promoted so-called conversion therapy for gays, though the group is now reassessing that stance.
“The WinShape Foundation and Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving is focused on supporting youth, family and educational programs,” said Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s executive vice president for marketing, in a statement to CNN.com, responding to questions.
“WinShape provides camping programs for more than 13,000 girls and boys annually and 14 foster homes caring for more than 100 children,” the statement continued. "In addition, Chick-fil-A has awarded more than $30 million in Restaurant Team Member college scholarships to hourly employees.”
A public relations firm representing WinShape and Chick-fil-A declined interview requests Thursday.
WinShape’s own programs have a serious Christian tint. Its summer camp for kids “challenges campers to sharpen their character, deepen their Christian faith and relationships,” according to its website.
The foundation’s college scholarships, mostly for current and former Chick-fil-A employees, are to Berry College, a Christian liberal arts school in Georgia. The scholarships are bent on equipping “college students to impact the world for Jesus Christ by following him and living out his unique calling in their lives,” according to WinShape.
For evangelical Christians, such programs make Chick-fil-A a model corporate citizen.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
“On the conservative end of the Christian world, they are seen as being one of the most fabulous examples of Christianity lived out in appropriate ways,” Leonard said. “They support all kinds of wonderful things.”
But for now, the national focus is on outside groups that WinShape supports. The gay rights group GLAAD, for example, recently started a petition to get Dan Cathy to have dinner with a pair of gay parents and their children.
“If Cathy is going to spend millions trying to break apart loving families,” the petition says, “he should at least meet the people his money is hurting."
I don't agree with Chick Fil A's or any christian view that preaches hate to another simply because of who they are. But with that being said, everyone including the CEO of Chick Fil A has a right to their opinion and state that opinion. If you don't like what Chick Fil A does with it's money then don't patronize the place. From my point of view, would it not be better to donate the money spent on a greasy chicken sandwich, in the name of jesus better spent on a donation to a homeless shelter, battered woman's shelter, or animal shelter, in the name of jesus? Call me crazy for wanting to help someone less fortunate....
My friends dogs are gay, they go at it all day. They like to eat chicken too...
Gay chickens are gonna eat your gay dogs.
Is it true that cats are stupid, ignorant and completely worthless? Give me your opinions. Thanks.
This article is subtly slanted left. Notice they called Focus on the Family an extremist group? Absolutly nothing could be further than the truth. That group is all about the family as it has been defined for thousands of years. However the group that over the past decade has been trying to re-define it is now calling everyone else a radical. How stupid. Don't be fooled by thinking this article is objective. And I am not familiar with the Southern Poverty Law Center but by reading this article they are clearly a left wing extremist organization. How can you label mainstream, Christian organizations hate groups? Do they believe in Life (as in not abortion), Marriage (between 1 man and 1 woman) and the worship of 1 Christian God? Yes. Guess what, billions of people have believed those things for thousands of years.
Hate to tell you this, but billions of people do not believe in 1 Christian God. In fact, far more believe in non-Christain religions, many of which establish multiple Gods. In fact, if you take Scientologists and Wiccans out of the mix, the notion of 1 Christian God is the least followed tradition in the world.
An Extremist group is one which has extreme views and wants to impose those views on others. They perfectly fit the definition.
LOL, yeah CNN once again has it backwards, the Souther Poverty Law Center would be the extremists, certainly not Focus on Family.
LGBT - Get over oit!
I'd like to know who funds these intolerant and bigoted gay-activist groups ... like GLAAD. CNN, can you expose them please?
After reading all the hate filled comments below, I really feel bad for the black people in the 60's that had to endure this same thing, all in the name of Jesus. A Baptist Church just last week would not let a black straight couple get married in it because the members complained that they were black. Can you believe this?
After doing my research on this subject and NOT getting my info from Fox News; this issue had nothing to do with Mr. Cathy's statement, but the fact that Chick-fil-a uses profits it makes from the community and gives them to hate groups that their only mission is to get rid of gays. So the masses have been duped again.
All through life, I always wondered how Hitler was able to get so many people to follow him. NOW I KNOW! Peace.
So, essentially what you are saying then is that they can't do what they want with THEIR money?
Reference to Hitler: Nice move. Only took you a few moments to drag out that tired, lame excuse you Lib's always deploy. Predictable as always and a very sophmoronic move!
The only ones I see hating are the gay groups. They hate it when someone stands up for what the bible teaches and agrees with it. If you are gay don't spend your money there, but EVERONE deserves to voice their opinion ,whether you agree or not..
None of these people who are allegedly standing up for the Bible follow even 1/2 of the laws in it. In fact, the ones they stand up for the most are always the ones which do not impact them personally.
So using free speech to protest other free speech they don't agree with is hate?
Hey "here we go again", You got that backwards. Mr. Cathy was just using his free speech when he voiced his opinion. Then the gays jumped all over him for doing so. They pretty much condemed the man. I would call that hate when you won't let him say what he believes.
And to "James pdx", Yes I am sure there are people that you described in the church(hypocrites) as there are in any group, but a true Christian should repent when he sins(as we all do daily) and keep following Christ. God hates all sin whether you are straight or gay.
Sounds like the gay rights groups want the Chick-fil-A president to be more tolerant and accepting by being intolerant towards the views he's expressed
Intolerant of intolerance? That's crazy!
Not exactly sure what you are saying. If you are saying that the left like "free speech" as long it is exactly what they want you to say then you are correct. The left doesn't really believe in free speech. They just want to be able to slander everyone else. However having an opinion that is different than their's is bigoted. That in itself is bigoted.
It's not about speech when one side has taken actions to negatively impact the other side. Even a child could understand that.
Have you ever wondered why two men or two women can't reproduce? Maybe mother nature did not intend for it to work that way. If everyone went gay, man would no longer populate this earth. Do you ever see animals acting like this? If people were born gay then why aren't animals doing this? Those who really believe you are born this way are idiots.
The information you're seeking is hidden in these things called " books ".
Animals are doing it.....stupid!!! All natural!!!!
You said, "Have you ever wondered why two men or two women can't reproduce?"
How the fuck does that matter? Do we require every straight couple to reproduce? Do we deny marriage to those that are not fertile, or choose not to have children?
You have to be extra special stupid to use that as an argument against same sex marriage.
You said, "Do you ever see animals acting like this? If people were born gay then why aren't animals doing this?"
Homosexual behavior is common in hundreds of animal species.
I'm beginning to think we've reach the bottom of the barrel with you. Did you graduate from elementary school? Or did you age out?
You said, "Those who really believe you are born this way are idiots."
Look who's talking.
The earth is pretty much populated as it is. And as far as animals go, gay behavior is extremely common in nature, particularly in mammals but also in several other groups.
Thank you, Midwest Rail. That made me laugh out loud.
Wendy, your ignorance is showing. A colleague actually sent me a funny picture today of two male turtles who were fossilized in the act. But you probably don't believe in fossils either, huh?
Of course I get a bunch of retarded responses. Why would I think otherwise?
You said, "Of course I get a bunch of retarded responses. Why would I think otherwise?"
Of course it isn't the responses that are retarded.
All he said is he does not believe or support gay marriage which 90% of the population feels the same way. He did not say anything about hate. Nothing at all. The gay population always cry hate when someone does not agree with their lifestyle. Unbelievable. Grow up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I appluad the president of Chick-fil-a.
Do you have any idea what this is all about? No? Ok. Just checking.
Also, do you know what's infantile? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. You look ridiculous.
Please cite the reputable research firm that confirms your 90% assertion. I won't hold my breath.
I need to raise the BS flag on your asserion of 90%. It is wrong by a factor of 2!
Current data (as of July 2012) on the question of gay marriage is:
The conclusion: people in favor of gay marriage have a plurality!!! This is actually pretty big news.
Honestly, the gays need to take a break. They are just exposing their intolerance and sullying their image with the latest exercise.
Don't you have a cow to worship?
Ah, the reverse intollerance bit. It goes like this:
Pink Man – "Hey guys! Were having a party and everyone is invited!!"
Blue Man – "Great, can we come?"
Pink Man – "Of course, as I said, everyone is invited."
Blue Man – "Okay, awesome, we'll be there, just as long as those Purple Men arent there"
Pink Man – "Well, I can't say whether they will show or not since everyone is invited"
Blue Man – "No way!! We will not come if there is any chance those Purple men will be there"
Pink Man – "Well, since they have been invited there is a good chance they will be there. If you refuse to show up because they are coming then I guess you won't get to come."
Blue Man – "Well that is just so lame!! You guys are being so prejudiced against us!! Just because we can't stand Purple Men that should not exclude us from the party!! They should be the ones who can't go! Not us!!"
Pink Man – "Well we are all inclusive, we welcome everyone. We can't deny them the right to come just because they are purple."
Blue Man – "Well you don't seem very inclusive of us! What, do you hate people like us? Are you Purple lovers? Huh?
Pink Man – "The only thing we cannot tolerate sir, is intollerance. Please leave!"...
at some point, libelous and defamation claims need to be made by chick fil a. this is getting ridiculous. its time to start fighting back!
Poor Evangelicals. So powerless and mistreated. Boo-hoo-hoo.
Lot of hate on these pages. Lot of unhappy people. Lot of angry, anti-Christian rhetoric. Related? Hmmm. Oh, well. Hope you find what you're missing. God Bless you all.
Christians are good at generating hate. It fuels their coffers.
Truth is never hate. God bless
They cannot stand to hear the truth.
@just sayin: tell that to the millions tortured and slaughtered in the Crusades and the "witches" burned at the stake. Moron.
God's law requires a r@pe victim to marry their rapist (Deuteronomy). I'm sure all of those r@pe victims back in the time when God's followers still paid attention to his laws felt very blessed by God.
OMG, really. Let's bring up things that happend hundreds of years ago. Like Christians are doing that today. All the Christains I know are very loving and caring people who give back to their community and loves as God' commands. The truth hurts.
@truth hurts: Really? Ever hear of a place called Northern Ireland? You are SO in denial dude. Grow a brain.
Which truth, Snowdog?
I meant @snowdog.
They said "God Bless". Is the God from the Old Testament not the same God they worship today? Ignorance must be very blissful for you. Also, you just admitted that these Christians who are trying to impose THEIR God's laws on others simply choose to ignore the laws of their God that might have a negative impact on them. Nicely done!
I was atheist once. And really unhappy. I may be a fool now. But I'm a really content fool.
Growup. So you condemn a whole group of people because of some people, who say they are Christian are not living the lifestyle that God wants them to? That is ridiculous. People call themselves Christain all the time. It does not mean that they are. Are you saying that all Christains hate?. If that is the case than you need to grow a brain.
9snowdog: that us but one example and, btw, they ate not some fringe Christian groups. They ate good old Protestants and Catholics. And, no, I do not condemn all Christians. Do you condemn all gays?
@snowdog: sorry for the typos!
What happened to being free to give to who you want, believe what you want. Its OK as long as your politically correct? It seems if don't agree with gay marriage then you don't have a right t have an opinion. Marry who you want but don't run around telling others what to believe. They have as much right to their beliefs as you do.
you seem to gloss over the point that these same people – Dan and Truett Cathay amongst them – are rallying against gay marriage. So they cannot – as you say – marry who they want.
So you think it's OK to financially support hate groups? Groups that not only fight to deny equal rights here in America, but who also travel globally to spread hate for and incite violence against gays? When the leaders of a couple of the groups that Cathy sponsored made a hate filled trip to Uganda a few years back, they inspired a new law, that if passed, would make it a crime punishable by death just to be gay. But that's OK with you since it doesn't affect you, right?
I do not believe in a Gay Marriage Brian, although I do believe they should have the same rights in a Union, I think people are taking this to an extreme here. I have a family member that is gay & I love that person and their partner, but we do think differently but also respect each other.
I had no idea that they supported a bill that would kill Gays in Uganda James, I will not tolerate hate such as this
@Borgkitten at least you do that. You don't have to agree with it or want it. But you're not using wealth or power to make sure it never happens for anyone.
A lot of the folks yelling about how gay marriage is wrong do not even know a gay person. Or if they do...that person is very careful not to let them know.
@BorgKitten – Just to be clear, I am not saying that any specific church MUST marry a gay couple. While I don't happen to agree with it, that is each church's right. But the evangelicals seem to mix the notion of their own churches with the rest of the world. LGBT folks ought to have all the legal rights that hetero couples have: Rights like spousal insurance benefits, rights of inheritance, tax deductions and status. These all come with a civil marriage license. Call it a Union, Call it a Marraige. Call it a Festering Wound. I don't care. Just make it equally available to all humans
I agree Brian :)
Hey, can you guys do me a favor? I am a business owner and I am going to post on my company's site that I support marriage to be between a man and a woman. The idea is for people to get so riled up with my personal views that they will cause a commotion for nothing and my company will sell more. You know, just like what happened to Chick-fil-A Wednesday on their record setting day?
Please reply here with your email so I can send you my company's info.
You missed the point. But at least you went to some trouble to do it.
Thanks for playing.
People have no right to disagree with the idea of gay marriage.
Everyone has the right to disagree, much like my great grandmother disagreed with letting blacks marry white women. Where your rights to disagree end is when your opinion turns into a vote that actually prevents another tax paying citizen the same rights you enjoy. Thats when you become an ungreatful bigot.
I have every right to disagree with gay marriage. Just as you have the right to think that it ok. Look at nature male/female, no gay animals. People choose to be gay, not born that way.
One more thing, thank goodness it was a kiss protest and now a sausage kiss protest.
Oh dude! Did you have to go there! Whew. Two men making love. Whew...
We'll, according to Chick-fil-A's record setting day, that is not what everyone else thinks. But let me go wash my mind now because these images in my mind are wayyyy too disgusting to think about before dinner.
There are so many lies being fed by the pro gay groups and the media about hate groups financed by Chic Fil A. Smart people will see that. In any event, there were more people that showed up to show support for Chic Fil A, not necessarily because they are anit gay, but because they believe in free speech. Kiss protest was a dud. Oh well, keep trying.
There are also so many truths being fed by the anti-gay groups and their ignorant supporters. Congratulations on being crowned the new quen of denial.
Don't you need to buy more beer and potato chips at Wal Mart?
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.