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."
The horse is dead. You may stop beating it now.
This whole thing is a brilliant, if twisted, viral marketing campaign. The gay community and the news media are feeding right into it, they are being used. Chik-Fil-A is laughing all the way to the bank. All this attention and all these protests are getting them attention and more customers. You are all helping a third rate fast food joint make truck loads of money. Want to hurt Chik-Fil-A? Stop talking about them, ignore them.
3rd rate??? That's where your comment won the propaganda tag.
To think that this is a conspiracy of CFA pr folks paints you as a nutcase paranoid.
CFL WILL ALWAYS BE IN BUSINESS. GOD WILL BLESS THEM FOR TAKING A STAND AGAINST THE SODOMITES
Who are these mysterious Anti-Gay groups that Chick-fil-a suports with its millions in donations?
something tells me a big chunk of these chick fi e supporters screaming about religious liberty were the same people trying to stop the mosque from being built in tennessee.
So what. Many of THEM have Ph.D's, M.D.'s, D.O.'s, or other types of professionals who HAVE THE MONEY TO DONATE.
Make WHATEVER accusations about "small-mindedness" that you imply–YOUR problem is that here in America, MAJORITY RULES. PERIOD. And, by the way, GAY PEOPLE ARE NOT THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE–only about 5% of the population, in fact.
SO, if you can raise your cause through "the almighty dollar," then MAYBE you'll be able to "defeat" Chik-fil-A–but until then, YOU'VE LOST THE WAR BY ANGERING THE MASSES. AS IN %95 OF AMERICANS.
Being the bucklke on the bible belt, tennessee for sure is full of bigotry!
Cathy should be told childred and families are overrated. And gays can be parents, too – better than straight couples in MOST cases!
Shut up and get in line for your healthcare.
For "Obama" : I already have heathcare, and i know your real name is BUBBA, and I don't mean that in a good way!,
so now everyone knows about focus on the family, thanks to the left wing media. from the vitriolic attack, you would think they rounded up gays in the night to shoot them and dump their bodies. promoting the traditional definition of marriage is apparently a hate crime.
Preventing equal rights is certainly a hateful act.
Yeah, well...the whole point is he shouldn't be promoting ANYTHING in connection with his bigoted BUSINESS. Save your bigotry for your personal life, "Cathy"
Vote for me and I'll set you free.
I think that this whole Chick-fil-A matter is sooooo blown out of proportion. As a person of color, I would have a real problem if Chick-fil-A said we won't serve gay people or have "NOT ALLOWED" signs posted as they were before the civil rights movement down in America's south. However, a lot of people are never going to change their opinion on gay marriage. They are even more defiant when people try to 'strong arm' their God-given beliefs. There are a lot of weak people that have been bullied into supporting gay marriage - except for when it comes to voting for it - look at California. I read the Bible and strongly believe in God. However, I saw nothing in the Bible that said I had any authority to judge a person for being gay nor does it give a gay person the right to judge others for their personal beliefs. Yes, as most bloggers say, gay people have been around for a long time - this includes Biblical times. I wish they would call the union something else besides marriage. The reason being is, just as sure as it took an egg and a sperm to make each of us, the definition of marriage has ALWAYS been a man and a woman. I apologize if I have offended anyone, but I speak for a lot of people who share my beliefs.
Christianity was forced on your ancestors on pain of death, as it was to my ancestors in Ireland. Open your eyes.
Please put you bible away and get real. People like you bible-bigots are why the US is so messed up in the first place. "If it's not in the BIBLE, it must be evil!" Oh, please.
To: Rational Libertarian. Religion was not forced upon me. My true belief in God came with time and has sustained me. I don't go to church so much, but I try to treat people right and not judge them as you just attempted to judge me.
To: hannah1 You're not really worth my time, but you may want to find yourself a Bible. Try reading Rom. 1:26-28
Where did I judge you? That being said, I'm now going to judge you. You are mentally deranged.
No thanks on the bible. I saw the movie-it was really stupid.
Amm, I agree with your comments and found them to be sincere, and not the least bit hateful. Yet once again, those replying resort to mocking our Bible and Religious Values, and spew hatred. It is why so many of us resort to sitting back quietly, so we don't have to feel bullied. I also believe that changing marriage laws is not the answer, but that there should be an alternative. Why can't people just agree to disagree over this issue; we all have a right to our opinions.
the word "hateful" has become the "yo momma" taunt of the gay community, it may have worked in the past, but as evidenced from wednesday's turnout – the majority will no longer be intimidated into silence by the bullying semantics of the gay activists. Long live chick fil-a.
You da Man!!!
You didn't build that. Someone else did.
I'm from Canada, so get to see the news without the party filters.
I do not understand for the life of me how this obvious misuse of a man's speech can be so easily drilled into American's heads. How do you manage to believe this nonsense when the actual truth is so easy to find?
Obama's got real things you can pick on. You don't need to make stuff up...or maybe you're one of the people who've been duped by the Republican camp into thinking he ACTUALLY said business owners didn't build their own businesses. If you are, shame on you for letting yourself be led around by the nose like some cow to the slaughter.
If you care about the United States at all, you'll find out what Obama really said (infrastructure, like roads weren't built by the business owners, but contribute to a business' success by ensuring people can get to them) and spend this election focussed on REAL issues that are important, not flagrantly STUPID partisan nonsense.
Well said Mod.
Don't all you Canadians forget to vote for me in November. Your vote counts in Amerika, too!
I'm a big fat Canadian idiot.
That's why you'll vote for ME!
YOU should be ashamed of yourself for abusing our President's name.
This isn't North Korea Hannah.
I'm a gay male and strong believer in God and understand the emotions involved on both sides of this issue. However, if both sides claim to represent love, why is there so much hate and anger? Take advantage of the fact that both sides are good human beings and get back to resolving this issue respectfully as we have been doing for years now. Enough of this divisive Chick-Fil-A nonsense already.
I am sorry but the only hate is coming from the protestors. What Cathy believes in is not hate and he never said anything hateful.
Yup, the ability to accurately predict the weather is certainly a godly power.
Cathy gives money to hate groups and he doesn't support equal rights.
mobi why don't you scroll down a few posts. This issue goes way beyond Chick-Fil-A.
You all shut up and buy your healthcare. And remember, you didn't build that. Someone else did.
I was raised by a gay family and grew up in the gay environment. My respect for the rights of all individuals was formed at that time. Today, I am a mother of two older children and hope I was instrumental in forming their tolerant view points. I am, however, disappointed in this present debate being instigated by the gay rights movement. You ask that all people be tolerant of your rights to be different. For that I am on your side. Each person has a right to have their own lifestyles. Having said that, I must side with the family of Chic-Fillet. They also have the right to their personal opinions as long as they do not attempt to discriminate in their work places. You demand the right to have equal rights but you attempt to take those same rights from others. This is not right. I throw my support for this issue behind Chic-filet. The gay rights movement would be better served to continue their fight for the right to be different. Do try to take those same rights from someone else.
What rights are being taken away from Chick-fil-A? None.
What rights are Chick-fil- trying to take away from gays? The right to celebrate their relationship through marriage.
Raised thank you for your viewpoint. I generally agree with you. The boycott in itself is totally fine (who wants their money ending up in the hands of people who fight against their beliefs?) but I am very disappointed at what this has escalated into.
I must need some help. I can't stop thinking about f3ces when I think of gay men, and oral disease when I think lesbians.
You shut up, too.
Prayer changes things .
Cling to your religion and your guns.
You really believe that? It didn't change A THING for all the people burned alive in the World Trade Center did it?
Awesome, sounds like the gay community is also helping increase the revenue of programs that Chick-fil-a supports for children. I just don't know how to thank the gay community for their support in record sales for the company and shooting themselves in the foot for their violent and hateful protest.
Christians tends to pick and choose what they want to read in the Bible. Please read the entirety. You'll be surprise at the end that you are a product of incest according to the Bible. Enjoy your reading!
Love how you group all christians in one statement. Just like saying all gays have aids. Think before you speak.
Chedar is right, no Christian adheres to every rule of the Bible.
Tax the rich. It's all their fault.
GLAAD = narrowminded bullies that want everyone to have the same beliefs as they do
Wait until my carbon tax gets you.
To all the upset straight folks. You may deny the right to love and marry, all you wish. You may turn your heads at the sight of a same gender kiss. But like it or not gay people have always existed and always will exist. If you choose to hate, refuse to see and continue to hold tight to your bible, your traditions of marriage will destroy family's. You allow us the right to exist but refuse us the right to live. You have allowed your bible, your traditions of marriage to speak hate. You have allowed your opinion to prevent my right to love, to live. You will not make me love someone I do not. You will not prevent me from loving someone I do. I can not expect you to give me the right to love, to live. For it is not yours to give. I have the right to love, to live I gave it to myself. It was mine to give. It will be mine to marry. You will know it, It was never your choice.
I support gay marriage and feel like we all have a right to believe what we want. Dan Cathy has a right to his religion and beliefs. I fail to see how he is hurting gay people by donating to charities he finds worthy. As far as I know the camps that rehabilitate gay people are not prisons and people elect to participate. I think it's a crazy idea but who am I to judge. You are just as guilty of pushing your beliefs onto others as Dan Cathy is. Who are you to insist that his opinions aren't valuable. As long as he is not hurting anyone (and he is not) he can spend his money like he wants. Why must you insist that everyone share YOUR views.
Pebbles, the difference is that her (LoveLiveLove) views don't restrict Cathy's rights as a citizen of this country, while his (Cathy's) views are that LoveLiveLove and others like her (or him) should not have the same rights as the rest of us. That is a big difference. Cathy is giving money to charities whose mission it is to restrict the rights of other citizens. Why is that so difficult to understand?
Obviously, it's his right to donate his money to wherever he wants, but donating money to hate groups is wrong. Also, you really should be more skeptical about those camps. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but don't they have those camps for kids also? If so, that's definitely not voluntary.
And as far as taking the "who am I to judge?" stance on conversion therapy, it is not just a matter of opinion. All the major medical and psychological associations are in full agreement that those treatments are ineffective and often harmful. This is based upon evidence and expertise, not random opinions. You have every right, if not a moral obligation, to judge it as unacceptable to pressure young people into harmful situations when the available evidence clearly demonstrates it is detrimental.
When Christ returns to earth, he will weep, then shake his head and say, “Why did you select one group of God’s children to separate from the flock and shame? Why have you sacrificed love and family to adhere to antiquated laws of long ago? I left you thinking you would take the love I shared with you to share it with all people. Instead, you take a book of paper and ink, altered over time, and make it more important than love. You segregate loving couples and judge and punish them for being what God made them. You single out God’s little ones, innocent and unsuspecting, divide them from the flock, and prevent them from enjoying friendships and comradery. You have bullied others into such desperation that they take their own lives. You ignore reason and chant dogma, though you see the injustice and humiliation you promote. And this you do in the name of God. You are traveling a dusty road in the dark. I light a different path to a place where people treat others the way they themselves want to be treated. Follow me.”
Or he'll bang Lindsay Lohan. One or the other.
Gay people need to ban Oil from Saudi Arabia. You know what they do to gay people there. Why no outrage for them or oil? Ban oil and don't drive.
Do you know how they treat Evangelicals there and what they think of Christians? Why don't you call for a boycott on oil instead of boycotts on Disney, Amazon , JC Penney and Starbucks?
Who's talking about banning anything?
California is just hysterical because people dare to criticize Cic-Fil-A. It's the old victim mentality. Boo-hoo-hoo. You were mean to me just because I slapped you in the face.
Rational Libertarian – I love watching you liberals be so ignorant. You people complain about companies using slave labor yet I'll bet more liberals use Apple products than conservatives do.
Personally I find this very typical of libs.
Read the moniker dopey, I'm a libertarian, not a liberal. I'm just a guy who supports laissez faire economics and individual liberty. Also, yep, I do condemn slave labor, but I fail to see what that has to do with anything.
"you liberals" "you people" "libs" etc.
Wow, stereotype much? I would hate to see how your condescending stereotyping translates with regard to race and ethnicity in private.
California: go to bed and sweet conservative dreams of controlling people's personal lives.
You mean the same "controlling" as the Liberals.
If God is male and God loves everyone, then God loves other males. Is God gay or perhaps bi?
And what about Jesus who only hung out with dudes in robes? 36 and never married. No girlfriend either. What's up with that?
And all he ever talked about was love, compassion and kindness. Wasn't at all interested in macho stuff like fighting wars and blood sports. Do you think maybe he was ....? Nah. Couldn't be, right? The world would come to an end if that were the case.
Spoken like a true liberal. Don't forget to vote for me in November.
If you criticize Christians, you are a bully and they are victims. If Christians pass laws to force their beliefs and practices on others, they are simply doing God's work.
You see clearly, young Jedi.
Give me a second term and I'll outlaw Christians.
If you allow men and women to get married, next it will be men and dogs.
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
Western civilization will surely fall.
Agreed, then children and badgers, women and bus stations, cats and the Mid Atlantic Ridge.
Where will it end? Best not to allow anyone to get married.
We should organize a charity to protect the sanctity of marriage by making it illegal for anyone at all to get married. But we have to come up with some saccharine,misleading, and somewhat ironic name for it like "God Loves the Children."
Protect the children–don't have any.
And as we all know, God REALLY loves children.
God loves everyone. That's why there is so much hate in the world–to balance things out.
I saw the liberal media showing a cat and Midatlantic Ridge wedding on TV this week. Disgusting. A crime against nature. God made Adam and Eve, not Cat-am and suboceanic tectonic margin. Just....sick.
You can't trust the media–it is all liberal. Better watch those non-media programs like Fox news Sean Hannity or Glen Beck. Best to listen to non-media radio like Rush Limbaugh. Read non-media papers like The Wall Street Journal.
That's right. People should think for themselves and believe what AM talk radio tells them to believe.
Or just spend their time watching Dancing With The Stars and The Kardashians. Let their pastors tell them what to think since they have a direct pipeline to God anyway.
Why waste good TV time on independent thought?
Please exain to me why a successful businessman can't donate his company's money to whoever he wants?!? A family can not be broken up by someone's comments or donation. A family will be broken only if its foundation is built on shaky ground to begin with. Thank you CNN for this article ... I was not understanding what the hype could possibly be about ... I am sure the Cathy family is shaking their heads at how people can make things their business and comments can become such hot news. Christian life is lived by striving to exemplify the acts and compassion of Jesus. Love the sinner, hate the sin. We aren't here to judge ... Only God can do that.
What a crock. Hypocrite .
He can donate to whoever he wants to, and we're ent.itled to criticize him for it. That's how freedom works. He's allowed to sponsor hate groups, so we can call him a retard for doing it. Also, where does Jesus condemn gays? Also, your god is a poop nose, Satan is way cooler.
christa.. you forget the belief in god empowers the less intelligent to attack those you claim to be different. it only takes a minister to discuss how god,, who ever he is, to dislike folks.. who as it happens also is the same as they dislike..and the crazy's go out and feel vindicated . The comments by your hero are incendiary to some members of gods brainless.
The Cathy family will really be shaking heads after Mr Cathy comes out of the closet.
Christal, how can you presume to declare someone else's love a sin, say you hate that sin, and then claim you are humbly above judging anyone? What smug hypocrisy.
Please explain to me why a successful businessman who states an opinion can't be criticized for it? While you're at it, please explain to me why a successful businessman should not pay taxes.
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.