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."
You clowns at CNN didn't even put this much investigative effort into vetting the current President.
Umm... why would it have been CNN's job to vet the president? There are actual people in the government who vetted each president, looked at the evidence, and decided each fit the qualifications.
If you are referring to Obama, the information was given to the appropriate sources well before he got elected. It was not released to the public, because the public had no need to know. It is peculiar that the so-called birther movement actually thinks that our government doesn't have people in charge of doing this (and who do a good job, mind you). I guess birthers think that government employees are all incompetent... so why are they upset that Obama is president, again?
I support Chick-fil-A and now eat there 3 times a week, by by Mickie D and Taco Bell
My guess is you should worry more about obesity.
From what my wife read yesterday, McDonalds also donates to anti-gay-marriage legislative causes... so I guess your favorite causes aren't really benefiting much by the switch.
… and your spelling.
Thanks for the free advertising Clown News Network. Now I know where to go to donate more money to help Chik-Fil-A and America defend itself from the sleazy politically correct freaks. CNN sucks.
Thanks for the free advertising Clown News Network. Now I know where to go to donate more money to help Chik-Fil-A and America defend itself from the sleazy politically correct freaks. CNN buttpirates.
Thanks for the free advertising Clown News Network. Now I know where to go to donate more money to help Chik-Fil-A and America defend itself from the sleazy politically correct freaks.
It seems that the gay and lesbian groups are the ones so consumed with running a foul of Christian beliefs just to prove a point that they can. In the end, I doubt they will ever be happy with themselves.
Charitable donations aren't the issue - they are apparently pretty generous with their money (which is a good thing... even a really christian thing, in a land of fake christians). The issue is when they give to a group that uses funds to try and change laws.
If they want to give money to help foster children, I support it... assuming, of course, they don't make some restriction that the child be raised christian... if they want to give scholarships to a christian college, I support that, too (though spreading the scholarships around a bit more would be nice). But if they want to give money to change what I can and can't do legally, then I do have a problem...
Many argue that the U.S. is, and will be, the last Western bastion of "Fundamentalist Christianity", basically the last "hold out." What do you think? (yes/no/why?)
Yes, because some people enjoy the lack of personal responsibility.
All they gotta do is "OH SKY DADDY I IS SO SORRY", and they can feel squeaky clean again.
392 years of Puritanism and its descendants.
Except for a small minority, it pretty much disappeared in England where it was born. England got rid of their no-fun zone, buzz-kill Commonwealth. Here it is inst.tutionalized in politics.
I tend to agree. Now, I'm not a fundamentalist christian by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly not a doomsday guy, but I find it ironic that remaining little more than a holdout is exactly what many christians fundamentalists expect will happen before armageddon.
Most likely. This country is doing everything it can to keep its people uneducated.
If one looks at the evolution of beliefs and the rates at which countries emerge out of superst.itions such as Christianity, I expect the last significant populations of the religious will be in Sub saharan Africa.
They have a growing Christian population and lag behind in education, a virtually indispensible prerequisite to get above superst.ition. The number of Christians in the USA is declining and the only reason this is not faster is the number of Latino immigrants, who tend to be Catholic.
Lamb of dog,
The irony of your post is funny. No, scratch that, it's hillarious in that you didn't even catch it, oh "educated" one.
Why refer to this as a hold-out, as if Christians must change their deep convictions? The Bible makes it clear there will come a period of great persecution on Earth. I'm convinced it is coming sooner than later.
Fortunately other western nations have shown us what happens when morality if forced out of public debate, the slippery slope does lead to the abyss.
Not to burst your bubble, but it is secular western europe that is behind the times.
God Is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith Is Changing the World. John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
Read the blurb:
As the world becomes more modern, it is not becoming more secular. Instead, on the street and in the corridors of power, religion is surging. As "God is Back" shows, for better or for worse, faith is on the increase – fuelled by an American-style model of personal, customer-driven, aggressively marketed religion. Shining a light on this huge, hidden world of faith, from Californian megachurches to exorcisms in Sao Paulo, from China's aspirant middle-class Christians to mosques in Nigeria, this book shows that if you want to understand the modern world, you cannot afford to ignore God – whether you believe in Him or not.
to "311 MORTIMER" (A Typical Fundamentalist):
To use a twist on your own Christian expression, mark these words – Just as from dust your religion came, so to DUST it shall return! Ha ha ha ha ha
It is about time someone started reporting the real story. No one cares what these Cathy bigots say. It is what they do that matters. They are funding hate groups. That is not free speech that is directly harming others.
How do you come to this conclusion? What hate groups?
Why don't you just start a Fellowship of Gay Athletes. Get Anderson Cooper to donate. You have so many anti-christian and anti-straight hate groups formed already, why not one more. That will teach us.....;o)
Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Exodus International and the Marriage & Family Legacy Fund.
Eric: When one uses their belief to suggest how one should live, it is hate!!! Your book has not been updated in 2000 years and it is you christians who use it to dictate what you think is right and wrong in this world, instead of minding your own business and staying out of peoples personal lives, especially when those lives have nothing to do with you!!
I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV,
You didn't answer the question. What hate groups? In other words, what makes them hate groups? That they follow what their religion tells them regarding marriage? How's that hate?
We would gladly stay out if a small minority group wasnt making noise bucking the system to change things. So who is really at the helm.
Nobody cares about your warped beliefs, monkey boy. The company has other beliefs...like MANY others. Drink your CNN cool-aid and shut up.
the Family Research Council is classified as a hate group by the SPLC, and at least one other group on the list of chick-fil-a donations is listed as a hate group as well (forgot which one off the top of my head so I don't want to name a good organization)
Because they advocate legislating against these people, and relegating them to second class citizens, if not thrid class. That is hate. Take what they're doing/saying, then insert "black" or "asian" or "non-christian". Do you think you would consider it hate then?
Truett Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, has given 1.1 million dollars to organizations that misrepresent gay people and promote "conversion therapy," a practice that the American Psychological Association calls ineffective and potentially harmful. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified some of these organizations as hate groups.
I'm pretty sure it's more than 1.1 million dollars, but I'm going by the article above.
As you well know, I directly answered the question. You may object to the label 'hate groups' related to these organizations, but there is no doubt that these groups do hate gay people and do their best to continue to marginalize them in the legal process.
My post was for Mr. N
Focus on the Family is also classified I think.
ive given up on getting a real answer on anything. problem with small activist groups is they are sheep. They completly believe what the higher ups tell them. Look at WWf, greenpeace... and the rest. all well intentioned but miss informed. A small few pull the strings and the parriots start singing. Thing is they dont really knopw why.
This article paints a different picture of the 'hate' than many previous articles have suggested. To be honest, however, I've never cared about what sort of charitable contributions the company does. I'm happy they give money, and I haven't had any interest in the sort of charities they chose. If they give to primarily christian-exclusive charities, that comes as no surprise - and still counts as giving... maybe not as open as I'd like, but still a good thing.
The only thing that concerns me is money they've given to political groups and agendas... and this article didn't even touch on that.
Actually ... "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."
At least according to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WinShape_Foundation
The WinShape money comes from Chik-fil-A.
I was thinking Focus on the Family but my ultra conservative girlfriend kept scolding me for thinking so lol
I suspect the $1.1M number went to Exodus International. (It's a 'pray away the gay' group whose two male founders eventually married each other.)
Damn thought crimes >.<
"they are sheep. They completly believe what the higher ups tell them...all well intentioned but misinformed. A small few pull the strings and the parriots start singing. Thing is they dont really know why."
Gosh Eric, that sounds EXACTLY like CHURCH!
I support Chick-fil-A all the way.
So many ignorant bigots, not enough hungry lions!!
Speaking of ignorant bigots did you hear the one about the Canadian that minded its own F'n business?
You won't the ass hole can't help itself from running its mouth.
Awww the useless tool Dodney is back with more irrelevant idiocy. I guess he really likes showing how miuch of a pathetic moron he is.
WHO CARES!!! If the gay community doesn't like what Chick-fil-A says then DON'T EAT THERE! Churches do the same thing so grow up & quit whining!
Well said, Micky. I don't understand their point of view, but they have a right to express it. As long as they don't try to influence public schools, government inst1tutions, or pass laws that force their views on others who do not share that same belief, they can say what they want.
Just remember....Stalin and Mao didn't like gays either. They killed them. You just keep following media matters and see where they want to lead you, comrades.
Is the best way to load a cart of dead qu eers still pitchforks?
My bad. Wrong post
By all reports ...yes.
The biggest hatemongers and bigots are not people who do not agree with gay marriage, it is those that are pro-gay marriage and anti Christian. READ all the comments made against CFA and Christians! How can anyone deny that those comments are anything but hate speech? Would you openly say that to a Muslim? In the PC fad of today I would assume not.
Intolerance of intolerance is a good thing...it's not hate, what Cathy has done is hate and bigotry!
Here's the truly sad part. EVERYTHING good that the WinShape foundation does could be done WITHOUT GOD or religion. They do not need to believe in the Tooth Fairy to give out scholarships, run youth camps, and support foster homes. Do people really need to feel like they are being watched and judged to behave properly?
Of course not..only a fool would think that most people do good things because they are watched.
No. But apparently its OK to treat others like inferiors even with "someone" looking down at them.
But they do believe in God. That is their right just as it is your right to not believe in God.
What are you doing to help make the world better?
But apparently they need the donations from establishments that promote Christian values like Chick-fil-A. They can't get anything from Silverman who has been throwing money in billboards, tarps and charter a private plane just to promote intolerance, hatred and bigotry towards religion and God.
Entil'za, then why such a strong focus on Christianity? Why not simply DO things without all the nonsensical baggage?
Jake, I feel absolutely no need to promote what I do, but I feel good that I'm making use of this one life I have. Humble humility has it's place in the world, too.
Is a way for the attorney general to get illegal weapons in the hands of all known qu eers so they can commit mass suicide.That would promote more freedom for America than the fourth of July.
What the hell, give them all the C4 they need and a big open field.
I don't think 5 year olds should be posting stuff on CNN.
free swimwear and a one way ticket to Antarctica.
Really? This is an unacceptable comment. I do not agree with the ga. y lifestyle or agenda and will not support it but this is not how anyone should be treated. Everyone diserves respect.
There's always that South Carolina preacher and his fence.
Padding for the bottom of nuclear waste dumps
Drag weights for runaway semis
Tow behinds to clear minefields
Trolling bait for great whites
Olympic athlete javelin catchers
Crash test dummies for nuclear explosions
Is it just me or do they sound like a company that is trying to establish good traditional values? I don't see anything they are promoting as a problem. Next thing you know they may even donate to the Cub Scouts, lord knows what kind of trouble that may cause. In the meantime we have shady businesses donating to radical muslim agendas and nobody is protesting them. We have an out of control government on both sides of the isle and most people are just watching the kardashians and could really give a damn. We're behind you chic fil a! If all the banks and wall street had your values we would be in really really good shape.
Good traditional intolerance
Truth is never intolerance.
That's right. We also disapprove of you screwing your dogs, wearing plushie costumes in public and masturbating the family donkey.
They sound more like the Taliban trying to promote a Christian version of Sharia law.
No, it's just you.
Hooray for the American Taliban!
Prayer changes things .
Dear Sky Fairy please make this fool write something else.
Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. Proof provided by response posted above
You're right, but usually for the worse.
You have to admit that posting an unsubstantiated, nearly laughable opinion isn't going to buy you a whole lot of respect here, right?
I would respectfully disagree. I think prayer probably changes your state of mind, that's about it. It doesn't do anything for you that meditation wouldn't do. There have been numerous scientific studies done and not one has ever shown a positive result caused by prayer. If you stop and think about all the people that you know who are suffering, have suffered or know someone who has suffered, you will realize that it is delusional to think prayer changes anything. Its actually a bit ego-maniacal and self centered if you think about it. People claim that god stepped in for the most mundane things in their life (I didn't think I would get a mortgage but then god stepped in, etc) while at the same time giving god a pass for allowing death, disease and suffering all over the place.
If god is going to judge everyone someday. Then why don't Christians shut up and let him do his job. Why do you feel the need to control the lives of others. I thought we were giving free will for a reason. And now they sit there and attempt to control others when god did the exact opposite. How confusing you religious nuts are.
Believe me, an overwelming majority of Christians are completely apathetic to you and your lifestyle. We just don't want our children to follow such debauchery or perversion.
Oh so it's the Christian Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor who are punishing the gay loving Chick Fill A from opening up based upon the private views of the ceo who don't play a part in the equality and fairness of his operation?
So it's the Christian's who are against free speech and look to "punish their enemies".
It is a Christians responcibility to share the truth in love. However christians are people too with all the same flaws. What I have been noticing is that alot of the post from the christian view most likely were not posted by christians. I can easily change my screen name and post from the other point of view. Trolls are everywhere.
WDinDallas, that's funny...I think the same things about Fundies.
WDin Dallas – no the majority of you religious morons are NOT apathetic to gays. You're actions prove otherwise.
Eric: How did you come to that conclusion? Christians can be some of the most hateful and intolerant out there. Atheists do not have a book to guide them on hating and bigotry...we are the ones expecting that christians attempt to put down the giant book of multiple choice and treat everyone equally. Intolerance of a belief system that shows intolerance is not a bad thing.
I'm not gay. But no one really answered. Most of you changed the topic except Eric.
This is getting out of hand. This is America, you are free to state your opinion at any time. I don`t see where being a christian means that you have to hate other groups, or vice-versa .People are waaaay to sensitive. Now gimme a chickin sammich!
If I had a million dollars to donate, no no one billion dollars, I'd donate it WinShape.
Bet you wouldn't.
Its Official, I will be opening my own chicken restaurant by the name of Chick-B-Gay..... It will be open on Sunday, and serve Sunday Sinner Fried Chicken....
I'm there. Can I get a Sodomy sandwich. And a large Gomorrah shake.
And just how gay is eating a big meaty c0ck(erel) between two buns with special sauce?
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.