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Chick-fil-A controversy shines light on company’s charitable giving
Chick-fil-A’s charitable giving has come under scrutiny in the controversy over its president's opposition to same-sex marriage.
August 3rd, 2012
08:41 AM ET

Chick-fil-A controversy shines light on company’s charitable giving

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.

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"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.

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“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."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Food • Gay marriage • Gay rights

soundoff (2,697 Responses)
  1. Rufus T. Firefly

    Although it's not that surprising to many of us, the irony is that those who feel compelled to speak out against gays really are more likely to be suppressing ho.mose.xual feelings. So flame on, ho.mophobes, and let your true colors show!

    h.ttp:/./ww.w.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ho.mophobes-might-be-hidden-ho.mose.xuals

    August 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  2. Jackson

    Amazing that the LGBT is complaining about charity work by very honorable groups doing incredible work for those in need, and yet I am stumped to find or hear of good charitable work being done be LGBT groups.
    Maybe someone here can enlighten me as to those organizations.

    August 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Charity? Lets all get together to treat gay people inferior.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • volsocal

      Must be "behind the scenes"...as it were.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Lisa

      I doubt if their complaint is about the charity work. I'm glad to read that the majority of this organizations profits seem to be guided toward true charitable work. The complaints seem to be based on the portion that goes to organizations that promote an anti-gay agenda.

      Your question seems to be trying to target the LGBT community for not doing charity work but you're not really measuring well. If you belong to a golf club, or a human rights club, this has little to no impact upon how much charity work you do.

      It's really disgusting how hard they have to work for the same basic human rights that the rest of us get just for being born straight.

      Though I do have to wonder how many of us were "born straight" cos so many say that being gay or straight is a choice. I never experienced that myself.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  3. Margaret

    Only a religious bigot would consider depriving people of civil rights is "charity".

    August 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • truth be told

      There is no civil right to be a pervert.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Eric

      What is the definitation of civil rights? Where does it come from? what is it based on? Or do we just change things as we see fit. Just like seperation of church and state.... way out of context today. which started with a group as babtists in MA worried that jefferson was going to make the congressional sect of christianity the national sect... The responce was that there would not be a national sect... today it is twisted.

      Do some research and come to your own conclusion instead of parrioting some other misguided individual.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Eric

      baptists

      August 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Spelling is the least of your errors in that garbage.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Eric

      thank you for proving my point

      August 3, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  4. MAN

    All please don’t misunderstand me, because I stand and believe fully in God doesn’t mead I agree with the small mined comments express by Chick-Fil-A. I believe that only God can judge someone. I the Bible it says judge not yet ye be judge. I cannot judge anyone because I can’t afford to be judge. We have all sinned in Gods eyes and no sin is greater than the other. So by telling a gay person he is going to hell for his actions one may be for fitting his own place in heaven. May God Bless you all…

    August 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  5. Eric

    I think this hurt my brain. It is percieved that they are supporting anti ga. y causes... Which is not true but there is open attacks against christian programs/groups. How does that work... Talk about a farce.

    August 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Boo-hoo-hoo. Poor powerless Christians. Who again is trying to pass laws against whom?

      August 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  6. ialsoagree

    "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."

    And believing a magic man in the sky used magic to make people from dust is also "mainstream within the evangelical world" – but that doesn't stop it from being bats*** crazy.

    August 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Rack Of LAMB

      Ha ha ha ha ha, too much!

      August 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Barry Allen

      Wow, you are just a little jack-off aren't ya?

      August 3, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  7. MalcolmXcrement

    Gay folks need a hero in their lives. Someone whose footsteps they can follow.

    I know, how about that gay Rutgers student!!!

    August 3, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  8. GrowUp

    @shutupsnd die: wow, you are one unhappy dude. Why so bitter? Blaming the world for your failures and miserable narrow life? Get some help dude. Life is way too short to spend it hating other people.

    August 3, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  9. Katy J

    Can someone tell me that if I bought an item from Chick-fil-A would a portion of the profit go
    to the anti-gay movement? If yes I boycott. If the owner is just giving his opinion and not putting
    any Chick-fil-A money towards an anti-gay movement then I don't boycott. I don't care about the owner's
    opinion. I just care where my money is going. Thanks!

    August 3, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Yes.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WinShape_Foundation

      "WinShape has donated an estimated $5 million to groups including Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Family Research Council, Exodus International and the Marriage & Family Legacy Fund since 2003."

      Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, Exodus International and the Marriage & Family Legacy Fund are decidedly anti-gay.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Yes, that is what this article is about.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  10. Greg

    Gays and their advocates are mean, cruel and the most intolerant people in America!

    August 3, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Norman

      Why do you lie so?

      August 3, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Yes, just everyone knows gay advocates are seeking to codify str8 relationships thru civil legislation. Oh, wait. They aren't ? nice try though.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  11. James

    Is it fair to say that Christianity tries to Scare and Threaten people to join them or stay with them? Hell, brimstone, all that... (yes/no/why?)

    August 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @James

      Yes, because fear is a very simple way to keep people from asking to many questions.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      That's why half of them are "believers" if you read the posts.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • truth be told

      I do not reads that at all, the Christian is a product of divine love and confidence.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Ignore what you want its still true.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @truth be told

      Yup nothing says divine love like eternal torture in a lake of fire. So loving.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  12. Me

    Love the photo. We should all follow what the sign says and "Do Not Enter".

    August 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Ok whatever

      Yeh I'm straight and they lost m family's business

      August 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • truth be told

      They just gained mine and all our friends, i will go out of my way to patronize them and bring others with us.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Yup

      Gained mine as well. I always was fond of Chick-fil-A and they just gave me another reason to continue my service there.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • GrowUp

      And the morbidly obese trailer trash continues to flock to Chic-Fil-A.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • shut up and die

      Grow up – Let me get this straight.... you dislike jews and black people, now you are dissing the obese people, but you like gays and support gay marriage? So you must make you a... when, you know what you are.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • steve

      Never ate there before this week but do and will continue to now Great respect for the owner!

      August 3, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Jen

      The bible is clear that fat people are on their way to h-ll too!

      August 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  13. Horseman14

    If all roosters were gay, Chick-fil-a would soon be out of business.

    August 3, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Very good, horseman14. You understand basic sexual reproduction, with only minor errors (e.g., a gay rooster can fertilize an egg, too).

      August 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • MAN

      I depends on how Gay the Rooster is 20% or 50%

      August 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  14. MAN

    As I said before God is real and thoughs who doubt him will end up crying for him in the end. God is lord over us all Gay, White Black etc….

    August 3, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Thoughs? So I'm good.

      August 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Rack Of LAMB

      Oh no, MAN, "thoughs" who believe your nutty religion will be the ones crying!

      August 3, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • MAN

      God bess you Racky

      August 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Rack Of LAMB

      "MAN" said: "God bess you Racky"

      Dear "MAN", your religion has "blessed" enough people in its history by BURNING them alive. But maybe your Sunday School forgot to teach you about that?

      August 3, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  15. nestor

    A man called Jeshua in his time said the truth to the men of his age , and by that truth he die by them , the same truth has completely furious a group of people who distinguish themselves by do something against the current of the truth

    August 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      sense no you make your and sentences

      August 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Hey nestor, what did Jesus say about gays again?

      Oh, nothing? Then what am I missing here?

      August 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Crazy ramblings? I think so.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • truth be told

      Jesus is the same God who called ho mo se xuality an abomination in Leviticus.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @truth be told,

      and here was me thinking he was the New Covenant?

      August 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Yup

      Hey "I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV", what did Jesus say about cannibalism?

      Nothing, so I guess I'm not missing something here..

      August 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  16. ReligiousGuy

    I support full civil rights for gays. However, to me it now appears that the gay rights activists are taking it not a bit far but too far away from what is actually needed by them as civil rights. A private citizen said something which many say amounts to him not supporting gay rights. So what, that's his view. If he puts into practice any discrimination against gays, then that's when the activists should jump in. Not now. Jumping in now is making the whole gay rights movement look lame. To top it off we have lame idiotic politicians on both sides stirring the stupid pot only because elections are near.

    August 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Yeah –they are like the uppity blacks who said separate was not equal. They should know their place and be thankful we allow them to remain alive.

      August 3, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • shut up and die

      Grow Up – Being racist again... hmmm... are you really a gay black jew in denial? No, I won't be your friend!

      August 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • GrowUp

      @shutupanddie: You are lame and so out of your league dude. Don't try to play with the big boys. Back to the sandbox for you.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  17. Jim

    Since anyone who is anti-gay or anti-gay marriage is characterized as a "hate group," imposition of that tag on these charities does not scare me off. When is CNN going to give up on this witch hunt? The simple truth is that the majority of Americans – despite your skewed polls – are against gay marriage and have voted it down in virtually every jurisdiction that has put it to a vote. If you think these articles are persuading people to change their minds, you are wrong. People are merely getting mad at having this issue jammed down their throats every single day.

    August 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      How dare you jam equality down my throat.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  18. Kevin

    Show us your College transcripts, Show us your Passport from the 1980's, Tell the US public about SOLENDRA, Tell us about your wife exotic –tax payer funded vacations, Tell us about kicking off your first fundraise for political office in Bill Ayers living room, Explain why Maj. Nidal Hassan has not been tried for the Ft Hood shootings, Hmmmm,Barry, please do tell us

    August 3, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Stunningly irrelevant. Well done.

      August 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Norman

      You know Kevin, your alternative is Bi Bi Netanyahu's lickspittle Mitt Romney who wants to hose 98% of American taxpayers to inflate the wealth of people like him who never even noticed the economic decline brought about by the last one of his sort to sit in the whitehouse.

      August 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @midwest rail

      Stunningly irrelevant describes Kevin in a nutshell. Might be able to add partisan douche, and believer in double standards.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  19. shut up and die

    News flash.... most people don't like gays!

    August 3, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • GrowUp

      News flash–that's what they said about blacks and Jews in the 1950's. While it may still be true, that doesn't mean they shouldn't have equal rights. And that, my friend, includes the right to criticize Chic-Fil-A or anyone else. Same rights you have dude. Why does that scare you so?

      August 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Really, according to the most recent data (July 2012), more Americans are in favor of gay marriage than not.
      Favor: 48%
      Oppose: 44%

      So I'm guessing that almost half of Americans don't have a problem with gays. Even 24% of Republicans!

      http://www.pewforum.org/

      August 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • shut up and die

      GrowUp – You would be wrong to consider me your friend. If I met you I would probably hate you.... just sayin. Anyway, blacks and jews have nothing to do with this. Obviously you are racist since you brought them up. And just as you and all the gays have the right to criticize Chick fil A, I, and anyone else have the right to criticize you and all the gays, and even the gays that want to marry other gays.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Hey shut up and die, please do.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Bitter because you ate unhappy with your life?

      August 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • GrowUp

      @shutupand die: get some help dude. You are full of hate and misery. Too bad, so sad for you. Please don't reproduce.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • shut up and die

      GrowUp – you are so wrong... like I said, you don't know me. The IRS considers me a millionaire. I donate over $100K per year to anti-gay rights groups, and my family and I frequent Chick fil A on a regular basis – they have awesome service and great play areas for our kids. I have a wife, a few beautiful children, and extremely successful, and am 100% devoted to my family. The true misery is shown in your comments to try and be my friend.

      BTW – I am not sure who you think I am , but there are many more like me!

      August 3, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • GrowUp

      @shutupanddie: sure, honey. Whatever you say. Who you trying to convince? Yourself perhaps? All the hallmarks of a loser. Sorry dude but you are nothing to be proud of.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @shut up and die

      Your name should be a big tipoff of how much you value humanity if it doesn't agree with you.
      Also, anyone can say anything about themselves online.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Bored with you shutupanddie. Run along now and play with your imaginary friends–or with yourself.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  20. Peter

    Dont shove your beliefs on others.

    It's their life. Just mind your own.

    August 3, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • GrowUp

      It's called spreading the word of God.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.